The Importance Of Google Reviews

I recently sat down with one of our clients Adam Sullivan to talk about his business and how important Google reviews have been for his business. The interview was recorded so you can listen below.

Also be sure to read all of our other posts on online reviews and Google My Business.

Jordan Caron:
Hey everyone, It’s Jordan Caron from Meaningful Marketing. I’m sitting down with one of our clients, Adam Sullivan, who’s a co-managing partner at Victoria Transmission & Auto Care. Adam, please say hi to everyone.

Adam Sullivan:
Hello, everybody.

Jordan Caron:
Adam, we’re going to get right into it here with a few questions about your partnership with Meaningful Marketing. A little bit of background about yourself and Victoria Transmission. How long ago did you take over the business?

Adam Sullivan:
Peter and I purchased the business in 2010 from my dad, and he’d actually bought it from his dad. We’re a third-generation business now that’s been fixing cars in Victoria since 1964, so I think that’s puts us at 54 years in town. Peter and I both worked at the company for many, many years. Peter had been here 25 years before we bought it, and I’d been here 15. And, we got wind that the owners wanted to sell. We really liked the direction the company was going and decided to make it a career for both of us.

Jordan Caron:
And, when you took over the business, they were just strictly doing transmission repair, correct?

Adam Sullivan:

Yeah. Probably all of 90% of the work that we did was just transmissions, clutches, driveline things. And, the general repair side of stuff, like the break jobs and oil changes. If a customer asked us to do that, we’d do it. But, it was not something that we ever advertised or put out to the city at all.

Jordan Caron:
Okay. So, you guys decided to switch that and become like, an all-care auto repair shop, then?

Local SEO Rankings

Adam Sullivan:
Well yeah, because the transmission industry had been declining. It peaked at around 1999, and then what started to happen was the manufacturers started to build better product that would last longer, and then they’d warranty it longer. And so, we were seeing a steady decline from transmission sales. So, you look down the road 10 years and think, well if we’re declining at 10% year over year, in 10 years we wouldn’t be left with almost anything. So, we had to make the decision to branch out, offer and advertise general repair just to stay alive, or the future looked really bleak.

Jordan Caron:
Ok, that brings up an interesting question. Before, they were just doing transmission repair. And, when you guys took it over, you obviously are doing all types of auto care repair. What types of marketing and advertising methods were being used when you took over the business?

Adam Sullivan:
Pretty old school stuff. Our biggest thing was the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages were king; we’d spend $50,000, $60,000 a year to be the category leader in transmissions, and even a two-page, full-color ad, it was a ridiculous amount of money. The previous ownership would do the odd, three-month radio ad. The Q, or local stations like that. We put the odd thing out in Times Colonist or in the black press. But, all old school kinds of marketing, and we were seeing a big drop-off on how effective it was being. The ROI coming from those forms of media – they couldn’t justify themselves, not even a little bit.

Jordan Caron:
Ok, so then, fast-forward to a couple of years after you purchased the business. You partner up with ourselves here at Meaningful Marketing. What made you focus on Internet marketing?

Adam Sullivan:
Well, Peter and I sat down and were looking at our advertising budget, which was about 6% to 7% of our revenue which, in our industry, is too high. We were finding that we were doing a great job of keeping existing customers and getting referrals, but as far as new customers, if they were coming in, we spent a few months analyzing, where did they come from? What made them choose us? And, what we were finding was, mostly word-of-mouth, which we already knew was good. And, almost none of it was coming from our massive advertising and marketing budget.

So, we sat down and thought, how do you decide which restaurant to go to? Because we both really like food. And he says, well I’ll go online and type in, if I’m in Seattle, Seattle’s best restaurants. Or, if I’m in Los Angeles and I want to go do something with my family, what’s the best family stuff that we can do in Los Angeles? You get a lot of information from that, and you get a lot of online reviews. What we found for ourselves personally is, we make most of our decisions based on – at first, a google search, and then reading reviews from other people that have been there and have done it.

And at that point, if someone has 20 or 30 reviews, some will be positive and some will be negative. But, at least you kind of get almost an insight of that business. And we thought, hey, for our business, if someone’s never been to us, and they have lots of decisions and options when it comes to getting your car repaired, there are a million auto shops out there. If we could have the Internet presence and get our reviews going, that’s what we used. That’s why we decided to really focus on the Internet-based marketing.

Jordan Caron:
So, you’ve kind of answered this question. But, how important are customer reviews for an auto repair shop like yours?

Adam Sullivan:
Honestly, we found that online customer reviews are probably the single biggest generator of new clients that we talk to. They’re able to find us organically through our web presence, or they’ll find us through some of our ads. But, we find that they make a final purchase decision based on the reviews that they’ve read about the company. That makes them feel that they can know us and they can trust us. I’m sure other industries vary a lot but really if you’re looking for a new mechanic in a town, reviews are going to be worth their weight in gold, and they have been. It automatically allows the customer to get an insight into your business that just your own website, because that will be biased most times – if they can read reviews, I think it just brings a lot more credibility to everything that we do.

Jordan Caron:
So, as of this interview, you have 59 google reviews, which is great because the competitors in the marketplace only have about 15 or 20 max.

Adam Sullivan:
If that, yeah.

Jordan Caron:
Now, what are you guys doing to get more reviews?

Adam Sullivan:
Well, that’s the toughest part. I’m sure we’ve all been there: we’ve been to a restaurant, or we’ve been to a business and we’ve had just great service, and we loved it. And, we’ve probably said the words, oh I’m going to write a review for you guys. Or, you’ve talked to a waiter and the waiter’s done an exceptional job, and you say, hey you know what? Thanks, I thought that was just incredible. And he’ll say, hey, can you write a review? Because this will help me when I’m talking to my boss about my next review. And at the time, you’ve maybe had a glass of wine and the dinner’s been great, and the lobster was perfect, or whatever it may be. And you say yeah, yeah. I’m going to do it.

But invariably, you never write that review. You go home, life gets in the way. You think, oh maybe I said that, but what difference will it make? We’re trying very, very hard to make it as easy as possible for our customers to review us online. We’ll ask questions like, do you have a Gmail account? And, if they say yes, well then great. You can just go to our site, sign in and make a review. It will take less than a minute. Or, if they say, well I don’t have a Gmail account; I don’t even know what you’re talking about, you say, hey, it’s getting an email address to start with Google, with Gmail. And then what we’re going to do is, we’re going to send you a follow-up, kind of how to get set up, how to create that Gmail if you don’t already have one, and really, make it as easy and as fast as possible for the customer to do it.

One thing that some other businesses in town in our industry do is, they pay for reviews. Or, they’ll give credit off or stuff like that. We’ve never done that, and I don’t think we ever want to do that. Morally, it just feels kind of wrong to pay people for reviews. So for us, it’s just doing a really, really good job. And then, the follow-up with the customer. Calling them a week later after they’ve been in and saying, hey, Mister Smith. We’ve worked on your car. How’s it still working? Were you happy with everything we did in the service? And they’ll say yeah. And then, you can kind of just remind them, we’d really like it if you could make that google review for us. We appreciate your business and we’d like to have you back. And at that point, at least it gives us a second chance to remind them about the Google reviews, and we’re finding that that’s what’s really started to increase the reviews that we’re getting.

Jordan Caron:
Perfect. One thing that Adam hasn’t mentioned here; in the follow-up email, what we do is send out a link to this person that goes to our website, which has a page that discusses and shows step-by-step instructions on how to write the reviews. So it makes it really easy for the person, if they’ve never written one, to go to that page and learn how to. And then, we also have a link that helps them find out how to sign up for a Google account, which obviously makes it easier for them to write a review.

So, that’s all of our time. I want to thank Adam for sitting down with us here, and hopefully everybody out there listening has gotten some knowledge on how to get reviews, and how important reviews are for each of their businesses. So yeah, Thanks, Adam.

Adam Sullivan:
No, thank you, Jordan.

Did Your Business Disappear From Google Maps?

Lately I’ve been getting a few emails and phone calls from current and past clients saying they disappeared from the Google maps search rankings.

These calls and emails came in last week. Being that I was on holidays I brushed it off as a glitch as I’ve seen this happen before. A clients listing disappears from the maps results for a few days but then they pop back up again a week later.

But when I got back to work a couple of days ago, I noticed their listings were still not showing up. So I did some searching in my local SEO communities. What I found was this thread from the Local Search Forum. In the very first post Broland describes a friend of his whose listing doesn’t show up if you click on the “more places” link to see more mapped search results. He played around with zooming in once and zooming back out and noticed his friends listing showed up again.

I tried this for a couple of clients and this worked. They weren’t listed there originally after clicking on “more places”. After zooming in and out again, they were there. Really odd right?

Some further reading in that thread points to a theory by Joy Hawkins that if two businesses are listed in the same building, one will be filtered out before doing the zoom in and zoom out. After thinking about the two clients I researched, they were indeed listed in a building with a few competitors who offer the same service.

I’m still trying to figure this out but can’t come out with a solution. Joy updated the thread a couple of days ago saying three attorneys in the same building were all in the top 3 but only for a couple of search terms.

Now I really wish I could help solve the reason why your Google My Business listing disappeared from the maps. But I can’t for now so follow the Local Search Forum thread for updates.

At the end of this, many believe Google is A/B testing some results. They’ve been known to do this in the past and let’s hope this is the case this time.

What To Do When Moving Business Addresses

A common question we get asked at Meaningful Marketing is whether or not moving can hurt your Google My Business or organic search rankings. I’ve already written an article on whether or not changing your business name affects your search engine rankings, and the same answer applies here if your business is moving, and in the instance of moving, you want to make sure you follow steps I’m about to lay out in this blog post.

You could see a loss in Google My Business rankings if you don’t follow the steps laid out in this post.

Update Your Website

The first thing you want to do is you want to update your website with your new address and contact details. So obviously go through your contact page, your “about us” page, check and make sure your contact details are updated. You also want to go through your website header and footer. The footer is at the very bottom which might have an old mention of a name or an address. Same thing with the header. You might have your old address up there.

Now, depending on if you’re prolific in web development or WordPress, whatever your website’s on, this might be easy for you. If not just search whatever platform you’re on. Whether it’s let’s say WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, search to find out how you can change things and if you’ve obviously worked with Wix, Squarespace and Weebly, you probably set that up yourself so it shouldn’t be too difficult to change. Contact your web development company if you are struggling to change the address on your website.

If you are on WordPress and you just want to make sure this gets done across the board, what you can do is you can use the WordPress plugin called Search and Replace. This works pretty much just like a word doc where you would find text and replace it with new text. What it does is it searches your entire database, so everywhere on your website it will search and find and replace the text. So it would be easy for you to change 1324 street name to 1325 street name. This would ensure it’s done wherever the old address is listed.

Update Google My Business Listings

Now that you’ve updated your website, what you want to do is you want to work on the Google My Business listing. What you want to do is if you’ve moved into a location, whether it was a previous business, you want to find their Google My Business listing and mark it as closed. Now, if you’re in good contact with the previous business that was in there, you can contact their owner and whoever was managing theirGoogle My Business page and have that done. If not, you’ll have to search and find that and mark it as closed.

When that is done, the next step is to update your ownGoogle My Business listing. You want to obviously go in, change your business address and phone number (if it’s changing) and that’s hopefully going to be done quite easily if you have access to your Google My Business page. If you don’t, you’ll have to go through and get it and claimed then verified. Now, verifying and claiming it can be pretty straightforward, as long as you can do the phone verification. So what you would do is if nobody has claimed that listing before, you can go in and claim it and what Google can do is verify you are the owner by doing either a phone verification, or a post card verification with a pin code. Sometimes a mail verification takes two weeks, or more, and sometimes they get lost. If you can have the option, do the phone verification as it will get done as soon as possible.

Change All Business Listings On The Web

Once you’ve updated or claimed and then updated your listing, or if you haven’t claimed it, you’ve updated the listing, you can move onto the next step, which is then to find your business listings. What you want to do is you want to search the web for all of your business listings. I’ve written an article on how to do that and the importance of your business listings. Read that post which has a spreadsheet that you can keep track of all of your listings.

But you want to track down all of your listings then update those listings or claim them so you can change those listings. Every business directory on the web is different so claiming might be allowed. If so, claiming the listing method might be different. Regardless, claiming will update the listings faster. The other method is to send update requests for each listing. This is know and NAP (name, address, phone number) clean up and is included in our Google My Business package.

Whether it’s Yelp, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, whatever it is, you want to change your business address and phone number if that’s changing as well. Having the business name, address and phone number consistent across the web is important for your businesses Google My Business rankings.

Our NAP cleanup offers four rounds of that and we have pretty good success with this. The goal is to focus on the bigger directories first like Yelp, Yellow Pages and Foursquare as they’ll have the changes done quite easily.

So, that’s the big part of the task of when you move and change addresses is getting those business listings updated, and you want to make sure you jump on that as soon as possible so that you don’t have any decrease inGoogle My Business or organic search rankings.

Find Niche Directories

The next step is to go through any niche directories where you’re listed. If for example you’re a health clinic, you want to go through and find in any of those directories and make sure those get updated as well. The same thing with local directories that you’re in, you want to update those as well.

But those should be covered when you do a search for your business name and address within google, and if you follow with tips laid out in my importance of your business listings blog post. You’ll be able to find all of your listings there, and again, this is something we can do as we have software called Bright Local which tracks down a lot of obscure directories and listings and mentions of your business so that we can update them as well.

While you are doing this you’ll want to do is then keep track of your updates. So you want to follow along and make sure those business directories are being updated and again within the blog post on the importance of your business listings, you can keep track on a spreadsheet, or you can have someone like us here at Meaningful Marketing do this for you. With our Google My Business package.

You want to make sure you get this done as soon as possible so that you don’t see a decrease in rankings, whether it’s Google My Business or organic search, because Google has stated in theirGoogle My Business support section that a business must be listed properly on third-party websites like Yellow pages, Foursquare and all these directories. Make sure you’re on top of it and keeping track if those changes. The steps laid out in this blog post will help you when you are about to, or if you already have, moved your business location.

If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Using SEO To Target Surrounding Cities

Lately I’ve had a few calls from potential clients wanting to target users in surrounding cities. Many of them are wanting to show up in the maps or Google My Business results.

I already wrote about this last year and explained how proximity to a surrounding city will make it next to impossible to rank in the top 3 in a surrounding city your business is not physically located in. It’s just one of the sad truths above the Google Maps results.

But there still is a way you can drive traffic to your website by targeting users in surrounding cities. Read on to find out what that is.

Local SEO Landing Pages

Just because you can’t rank in the Google Maps in another city, doesn’t mean that you can’t create a landing page on your website targeting a surrounding city. We’ve done this for quite a few of our clients. Especially those doing business in smaller cities and have clients from other smaller surrounding cities.

I’ve already written about how to create great local SEO content. Read that post then this one on creating local SEO landing pages for surrounding cities.

Those two posts will help you learn what it takes to create a good landing page targeting another surrounding city. Now it will take some time for these new pages to rank in a surrounding city. So be patient. But how long though? It depends on a few factors like:

  • How much trust does your domain have with the search engines?
  • How well written and optimized the page is?
  • How unique is each page? Don’t just copy and paste the same text and change the city name.
  • How many interlinks do you have to each of these surrounding city pages? Be sure to write a few blog posts about your service geared towards those cities and have a link to a city page you’ve created.

Local SEO Rankings

Honesty

When we write these pages for our client, we always be sure to add honesty. We’ll add a sentence like this in this first paragraph:

“You are searching for a painter in Cape Coral. Even though we are not physically located in Cape Coral and operate in Fort Myers, we have helped many clients in the Cape Coral with their painting projects.”

This can even work for storefronts. Point out that the short drive to your city is something many of your current clients have done and that it is well worth the drive. Then list some of your unique sales propositions like Jay Abraham says to do.

Again, the chances of ranking in the top 3 of Google Maps in a surrounding is highly unlikely. But you can still follow the steps from this post and the others I’ve linked to to create landing pages targeting those surrounding cities.

Will Changing My Business Name Hurt My Search Rankings?

One of the most common questions we get asked at Meaningful Marketing is “will changing my business name, address or phone number negatively hurt my organic, or Google My Business search rankings?” We always answer “well, it depends.”

Organic Search Rankings

So, let’s first start off by talking about the organic rankings. We have not seen a client suffer negative or poor search rankings because they have inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on business directories. Now, when we first start out with a client, we do a data scrape of all their business listings and make sure they do have consistent name, address and phone number listed on all these directories. So we make sure we get on top of that right away and clean them up.

However, we do have cases where we have clients come to us who have had a few business name changes, or maybe they’ve changed addresses or a changed phone number here or there. And in those cases when we start working with them, we obviously want to go through and clean up their data, and make sure they’re listed correctly and consistently across the web. But we haven’t seen a negative impact on their organic search rankings.

So, it’s not so much the organic search rankings you’ve got to worry about, because there’s a bunch of other factors that Google looks at when they rank a website organically, and a lot of those things we’ve talked about in our SEO blog posts, things like creating good content, things like adding lots of interlinks between posts, and things like optimizing your website properly.

Local SEO Rankings

Google My Business Rankings

Now, moving onto the Google my business search rankings, it can hurt your rankings there if you do have an inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on these random, third-party directories.

consistent-name-address-phone-number-google-my-business

So, you want to make sure, if you have already or if you’re thinking about changing your business name, that you track down all your business listings across the web, and you get them updated as fast, or as quickly as possible.

So, if you follow the strategy and the guidelines we’ve laid out in the importance of your business listings blog post, you’ll see how you can go about finding all your business listings on all these directories and then keeping a spreadsheet and keeping a tally and track of if you’ve contacted that website for the change request.

Where Did All These Listings Come From?!

Now, if that’s the case, you’re probably going to see a lot of business listings out there of your business that you don’t even know about, and you’re going to wonder “how did I get on that directory?” Well, what happens is a lot of these directories were started up by people who were looking to generate leads for search engine marketing services, or who were looking to generate revenue through online advertising, and they created these directories and what they did was just basically had data scrapers, whether it’s a spider, and created all this data about businesses and then simply had that data uploaded to their website.

So they could go to a directory like Yellow Pages, gather a bunch of information about chiropractors in Atlanta, Georgia, and have all those chiropractors’ businesses listed on their own website just by simply scraping the data from Yellow Pages directory of chiropractors in Atlanta, and then uploading it to their own website.

That’s how a lot of these directories have come to produce a bunch of business listings that you don’t even know about. And if you look at a lot of companies like Yext and Elocal in the states, what they do is they’re basically the big data aggregators and they just spit out all these business listings. So, if you list your business with Yext, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a bunch of business listings across the web that you may or may not know about.

Now, obviously, if you sign up with Yext you’ll know about those listings because they’ll send you a report. But if for example you had a listing on Yellow Pages that had an inconsistent name, address or phone number issue, then a lot of directories take that Yellow Pages information and put it on their website. It’s one thing that you have to watch out for, is that you’re going to see a lot of these directories that you don’t even know about that your business is listed on, so that’s an issue.

Unresponsive Directories

The second issue about these directories, like I’ve already said, a lot of these people started these these directories as the means to generate some side revenue, whether it was trying to generate leads for search engine marketing, or it was trying to generate ad revenue. Well, a lot of these people have started up doing that and then over the years, they decided to go branch off and do something else and they’ve put less and less time and energy into that site, therefore, they are no longer manning the support emails, because they probably get a bunch of emails from people asking to update their listings, and they’ve just given up because they can’t keep up with it, because they can’t hire somebody.

So, you’re going to run into directories like that where, unfortunately, it’s going to take three, four, five tries to get your name, address or phone number updated. If you can, great, but sometimes you’re not going to be able to because nobody’s going to answer your email, so it’s keeping on top and trying to keep track of who you’ve contacted and how many times you’ve contacted them.

For us, what we do is we provide the name, address and phone cleanup in our Google My business Platinum Package, and we offer four rounds, so for once a month for four months, we’ll go in and send off change requests or claim requests for all the listings. And we’ll go about trying to change them that way. After the fourth time, if we haven’t heard back from anybody at that directory, then we’ll just have to give up and move on and fight our battles elsewhere.

Focus On The Top Directories

Now Phil Rozek from Local Visibility Systems suggests you just focus on the top 50 directories. The top 50 directories you can find out here from the white Spark blog post. So you can find out if you’re listed on any of those top directories and go about just focusing on changing those ones, or you could use a service like Yext, which I think for $499 a year will take care of most of this stuff for you.

I know a couple of our SEO clients out of the States have used this in the past and they speak highly of it. It’s a fairly good chunk of money upfront, but if it gets things done fast, then you won’t see an impact or a negative impact on your Google my business ranking.

So, it all just comes down to making sure that you have all your business listings updated as fast and as quickly as possible. So, trying to track down all those listings and sending out requests. And, again, there are a couple things you could do, you could use Yext, you could sign up for them, they will probably get it done a lot quicker than somebody like us who offer it at a cheaper rate, where we go in and do it more manually, they will basically just go in and update on one site, their site, and then it’ll spit it out to all of their directories.

However, there are still a few directories that they won’t be able to get ahold of because nobody can get ahold of them because no one’s manning the support system there, so you have the Yext option, you have the option of our option, or you could do it on your own. It all just depends on what you want to do, but you want to make sure you get it done quickly, because Google states in their Google My Business guidelines that they want to see a business listed accurately across third-party websites.

So, they want to see that your business is listed correctly and accurately across third-party directories, like Yellow Pages, like Yelp, like Foursquare, Yahoo local, and on down the list to these little random directories I’ve already spoken about. You want to make sure you get on it as quickly as possible so that you don’t confuse Google and you don’t confuse their data, which they’ve collected about your business over the years so that they don’t go “we’re confused about this business, it used to be called this, it used to be located there, their phone number was this,” and then they don’t want to compare that to your Google My Business page and have that hurt your rankings, because it’s going to be easy for you to update your Google My Business page or website, but it’s going to be hard for you to update these random directories.

So, like I said, you’ve got three options, whichever one you choose you want to make sure you get on with it as quickly as you can and you get the ball rolling and make those changes as quickly as possible.