- Posted February 28, 2014 by
Why Reputation Is The New SEO
Reputation is the single most valuable asset a business has. Gone are the days of mere word of mouth, your online reputation precedes you, and for small businesses, it will be the number one determining factor as to whether their business dies, survives, or thrives.
A business without customers is not a business. That is why advertising is nearly as ubiquitous as businesses themselves. From the ancient marketplaces to the modern digital realm — even on this very page — various vendors are vying for your presently divided attention, in the hopes that you'll value their wares.
There was a time when getting new customers this way was as easy as putting a listing in the phonebook and waiting for the phone to ring. The name of the game had always been simply get positioning in front of traffic and convert a percentage of those people into buyers or customers or clients or patients. But the game has changed.
Now many people opt out of receiving the phonebook entirely, because the search for a local business had gone digital. In the early part of this millennium, the game of getting customers changed with the rise of the search engines, and now the point was to game the system and get to the front page of the search engines. Thus came the rise of "Search Engine Optimization," or "SEO."
Then the search engines fought back, seeking to prevent folks from artificially inflating their perceived importance and ranking higher, and a battle continues to be waged, "SEO" gurus on one side, and an army of programmers and animal names like Penguin and Panda and Hummingbird on the other. The search engines in general, and Google in particular, have a vested interest in only returning highly-relevant content, because people will stop using them if their results are sub-par. And if they stop using them, they'll stop clicking on the advertisements on the side, which is where more than 95% of Google's money is generated.
So the war continues to be waged over the best way to get quality results to show up on page one. However, the search engines have found a magic bullet, at least when it comes to local businesses, and it's one that's been around for a long time but is only now reaching ascendancy: Online Reputation.
Never before has reputation mattered as it matters today, because as search has matured online, it's turned social, and now incorporates factors that simply cannot be faked, particularly reputation scores.
Today, if you search for, say, a dentist by his name and city, one of the first things that shows up is his reviews. And if you search in general for a dentist, you're greeted with a number of reviews for a number of dentists, and an overall rating for most of them. A dentist with a 3 out of 5 star review might beat out an un-reviewed dentist, but he'll pale in comparison to a 5-star dentist with numerous reviews.
It's not just local businesses, of course. We rate everything, from products on Amazon to Plumbers, everyone is weighing in at the online forum.
In a recently conducted study of over 500 individuals, nearly 9 out of 10 said that, when given a reference for a local business, the first thing that they did was look them up on line. And over 50% of those said the first thing that they looked for was the reviews of that company. We trust word of mouth, so if a friend says that Joe's Dentistry is good, we'll initially give preference to Joe's, searching them out and ignoring others. However, if the anonymous group consensus that comprises online reviews seem mostly in consensus about some negative aspects of the business, that's enough to sway us away permanently.
That's powerful. And that's why every business is now back in the primary business of giving good customer service: it could make or break their future.