Many times in the past, I’ve discussed the importance of active online reputation management. I’ve done countless workshops/online seminars on the topic. The reputation you’ve built for years can be torn down with a single poor online review, especially when it isn’t responded to. Google reviews are the most important because of the impact they have on local search visibility and the ranking boost it can give your website. Many third-party review sites are out there as well – Yelp, for example, and even some in-industry sites. From recent columns I’ve written, you already know I am not a fan of Yelp. There are some pitfalls to all third-party review sites, and that’s the topic of this month’s column.
Three Issues with Third-Party Review Sites
- Lack of control. Collision and mechanical repair shops do not control reviews that are posted about them on third-party sites. This exposes your company to serious risk to your reputation and to your business goals. Plus, without paying for exclusivity, your competitors often show up on your page on a third-party review site.
- No ownership. Even if your company has a good review on a third-party site, the sharing and access to that review is based on the rules imposed by the third-party review site. All the benefits go to the third-party site, not your company or the brand(s) you represent. Without sponsoring a third-party review site such as Yelp, you’re limited on how many responses you can make to reviews left for your business. Positive reviews are often removed for no apparent reason, yet poor reviews somehow linger for years.
- Zero search benefits. When searching for online reviews about a company in the auto repair industry, third-party review sites nearly always outrank the actual company in the organic search results. It’s at that moment that third-party sites redirect potential business opportunities away from you, the company originally searched for. Google reviews have the most impact on local search optimization. Google reviews should be your main recommendation for where people should leave reviews for you.
All statistics that we at Optima Automotive have studied over the years show that online reviews have a significant impact on assisting consumers to make informed decisions. At least 80 percent of people who find products and services online make decisions based on the recommendations of others. You must not dismiss this fact; it’s too important to your opportunity to get cars to fix. Allowing all these benefits to be controlled by third-party review sites opens your business up to negative outcomes, lost leads, less website ranking potential and no control over the process unless you spend a lot of money.
Solving the Third-Party Review Dilemma
As our highest recommendation, I would like to introduce you to a review platform called Podium. Podium drives a ridiculous number of Google reviews for your business; I’ve seen it firsthand. Because of this, Optima Automotive has just become a certified agency for Podium. Why? There are many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that Podium’s system is about to be integrated with CCC’s management system. This is a game-changer because, when jobs are completed, it will seek reviews by enabling the automatic generation of text messages to customers and provide links for posting reviews with a single click. Text messages produce actual review completion rates up to 15 times higher than email-based platforms, even more than that from phone calls and letters. The average number of Google reviews a body shop has is in the neighborhood of 15 to 25. We’ve seen Podium generate hundreds.
Other benefits of the Podium review platform include:
- The ability to promote the review sites you wish to highlight the most. Google should be first, of course, but then Facebook and others can be secondary. Podium’s SmartSelect technology helps customers efficiently get to the sites that have the biggest impact for you.
- The ability to respond to reviews straight from the Podium dashboard
- The ability to text directly from the platform rather than from a phone, thus keeping a record of communications with your customers
- The ability to send follow-up text reminders to customers who do not respond to your first request for reviews
- Enhanced chances you’ll show up in the Google search “3-Pack”
- A competitor comparison of reviews
- Podium is recognized by Google, which has invested in them. It’s hard to get a much better reference than that.
Through this column, I’m committed to providing you with the best information about your online presence. I’ve invested a lot of time researching review platforms and even paid for Yelp review packages to see if they’ll work for you (see my column, “To Yelp or Not to Yelp,” in the January 2018 issue of BodyShop Business). Third-party review sites provide weak local SEO, lack of control and deliver poor overall ROI. Podium, on the other hand, checks off all of the requirements to help auto body shops automate the generation of reviews on the most important review sites so you can cash in on the benefits of getting tons of reviews. More information on Optima’s partnership with Podium can be found at www.optimaautomotive.com/auto-body-shop-reviews.