It just makes sense if you think about it, but a new survey published by Harris Interactive validates the fact that Search is how most people look for business information online. Almost 60% of respondents said that search engines were the first place they went to research local businesses. For those under 35 years of age, that number jumped to a whopping 83%. Only 8% said they go to the merchant’s site first, preferring instead to find the information from a neutral source.
When the question switched from desktops to mobile devices, the results changed a bit. The study showed that 17% “base their decision” on search engine results when researching local businesses and restaurants and another 15% rely on sites that publish customer reviews, such as Citysearch, Yahoo Local, Merchant Circle, or Yelp!. Similarly, only 8% use the actual merchant websites as qualitative.
So what does all this mean to you?
First of all, what it does NOT mean is that you can ignore your own website. The study did not say that people are avoiding the merchant’s site; it simply said they’re not using that as the primary basis of their decision making.
Secondly, you need to review the review sites and see what people might be saying about your business. The worst problem to have is people talking about your bad service and you being ignorant of the conversation. At least if you become part of the conversation you have a chance to communicate and make things right and that’s something people put a lot of stock in.
Third, create your own account at the review sites mentioned, as well as others you find. Use it as an additional brochure site for your basic business info. If there are negative reviews posted, use those reviews to analyze your business to see if you are indeed failing your customers somehow. If you are, those reviewers have done you a great service by letting you know about it.
Also, ask your customers directly what they think about your business and your service. Get them to post their own positive reviews. A few negative reviews won’t be nearly as convincing if there are an overwhelming number of positive ones.
What strategies are you using to be part of the conversation?