One thing that we have been seeing over the past year is that Google is all about local search and reviews. With the launch of hotpot and all of the hype about the Human or Influencer rank and Social Media Ranks in the SERP algorithms, its time to really reconsider many of your Marketing campaigns and how well you are doing with customer service.
For years companies have posted coupons and allowed sites to post deals or specials that don’t work. They run ads in their PPC campaigns to get people to come to their sites and then bait and switch them. Retail shops advertise in newspapers or on the radio but only make the specials available if you meet certain criteria. Black Friday specials that run out or stores that run limited offers and anger their customers need to rethink these strategies. If local search, which is already huge, starts ranking with reviews as a higher ranking factor; and hotpot, yelp and other review sites reviews start pounding in negative reviews to the Search Engines (SEs), you may find your rankings (SERPs) tanking. All of the sudden when someone searches for coffee shops in your city you may be the only one that doesn’t show up because the girl serving cold coffee and messing up drinks laughs when you complain.
With that said, Google and Bing are probably smart enough to realize that this shouldn’t be an insanely huge factor because some small companies can easily get their loyal followers to trash their competition. If it were that easy to knock someone out of the rankings it would be worth it to pay people offline or give them free product to bash their competitors. However if bad reviews keep popping up regularly and your competitors are better optimizing and have more positive reviews, you may find your site dropping in the SERPs. So what can you do?
Try becoming a legitimate business and go back to providing great customer service and an excellent user experience. Here are three places to start.
1. Be careful with your coupons.
If you use coupons or allow people to post them, keep track of where they are and when the expire. When they expire take them down and replace them with new ones. If Affiliates post them and don’t remove them when they expire then remove that Affiliate if they refuse to take it down and it becomes an ongoing issue. You do have to give them time to respond to your request though as they could be on vacation and it could be an honest mistake. You don’t want to jump the gun and piss off your Affiliates either.
Customers get angry and you create a bad user experience for your store if none of the coupons you have out there work. With companies pushing for reviews, angry people are usually the most vocal and they may go on a rampage about how your coupons don’t work. This could result in negative reviews dropping your sites local SERPs if enough people complain.
2. Don’t bait and switch consumers with online or offline ads.
Even with local grocery stores, they advertise that a food or ingredient is on sale but run out of it by noon as they didn’t stock that much on purpose. Not only does this anger Foodies like me, but it also leaves us going home feeling left out and with a “bitter taste” in our mouths. Not only could this cause us to not want to shop there, but we may want to share their bait and switch tactics with others so that they don’t fall for it to. In order to warn others we go online and leave negative reviews. This way our friends don’t fall for it and unfortunately if enough people do this their sites may lose their rankings. Now instead of having the local market show up for grocery stores in “your city” you get big names or other types of stores like wholefoods which provide excellent service and make goods when they run out of product. What can you do to help stop angry customers from lashing out with negative reviews?
Advertise and say limited quantities in a large area or give rain checks or a make good if you run out. You could even try this thing called customer service and have the person behind the counter apologize. Teach your staff to cross sell and be friendly so that they can try to make an upset customer happy and make another recommendation for a complimentary product. Shrugging and saying there is nothing they can do is something that does not solve the issue and will probably only further anger the pissed off customer.
3. Big brands watch out!
The days of getting free and easy SERPs and in the local results are coming to an end for you. Although your advantage with easy backlinks and huge budgets does help, the lack of customer service and attitude your employees give can cost your online business and foot traffic big time in the local SERPs. The CVS pharmacy at 1418 P street in Washington DC for example is absolutely horrible.
The store Manager Omar and the Assistant Manager Bejiman (I think that is how it was spelled) are great. They took great care of me, but only because I went in and waited for them to show up. Unfortunately the pharmacy and pharmacy staff at the Pharmacy at 1418 P St. NW in Washington DC is rude, unprofessional and unhygienic.
They roll their eyes at you and act like you are bothering them when you are just trying to pick up your prescription. If you ask a question about how to take it they say read the bottle and walk away. If you have allergy questions the girl with the tattoos and the Pharmacist ignore you. God forbid they check the fax or actually fill a prescription when your doctor has sent it over. My prescription had been sitting there for 20 minutes and the girl with the tattoos refused to check the fax for it. She was to busy talking and having fun. I actually watched as this same girl with the tattoos picked up a pill with her hands and put it back into a jar…unfortunately it was my prescription and into the small pill bottle she was counting for my prescription. I ended up not taking that one. CVS, check your cameras if you don’t believe me.
The horrible way that these large brands like the CVS at 1418 P street in Washington DC treat customers because they have large brands backing them will cost them in the local SERPs. Not only do these companies get tons of bad reviews now, but with these same reviews and tweets and other social indicators showing dissatisfaction, these stores will lose foot traffic in their stores because they will stop showing up as much for when people are looking for local stores and local Washington DC Pharmacies. This is a great opportunity for local small businesses to not only take back local search because they give good customer service, but they can take down some of the larger brands which treat customers like crap. Omar fixed the situation for me but his staff in the pharmacy is the absolute worst and most unprofessional horrible group of people I have met in customer service. I highly recommend you never have a perscription filled at the CVS at 1418 P St. NW in Washington DC as you don’t know if your pills have been touched by that lady’s hands and where her hands have been, as well as the fact that the pharmacist and CVS pharmacy employees are absolutely rude and have no customer service skills. Avoid the CVS Pharmacy at 1418 P St. NW in Washington DC.
The reality of Social Media and Reviews becoming a larger ranking factor is not only a great chance for local businesses to regain traffic from the SEs in local search, but it gives them a chance to show that their efforts in providing excellent customer service will pay off when they beat crappy larger brands like the CVS Pharmacy at 1418 P St. NW in Washington DC.
You basically just have to remember that Google is putting the control back into the power of the end users. The better you treat them and not try to trick them with bait and switch offers, the better your reviews and hopefully your local SERPs will be. The more you keep control of your coupons and the better customer experience you give the more chances you have to get good reviews. If your customers are happy, ask them to leave a positive review on Hotpot. Tell them to follow you and tweet about you to their friends. Ask for a like on Facebook and do what you can to show Google that you are the best possible option to show in their local SERPs because your customers love you. If social rankings and reviews become a larger local search factor like everyone is predicting they will be, then this will pay off and the larger brands will start to fail.