Online reviews burst onto the mainstream Internet scene around November 2010 when Google switched over to a local search platform. With the advent of local search, Google started to visually include social indicators to help rank websites within a local environment. One of the lead indicators at the time was online reviews because they were public and Google could index these reviews quickly and easily. Even Yelp reviews were wrapped into the online reviews on Google in 2010 until Google dropped them. Google partly made this dramatic change to local search in response to Facebook integrating the search engine Bing into its software.
What might have been a quick decision on Google’s part to compete with Facebook has now morphed into mainstream decision. As of April 2013:
• 90% of people’s buying decisions are influenced by positive reviews
• 86% of consumers are swayed by negative reviews
Dang! Just when funeral directors were hoping online reviews would a passing fad, it turns out they are here to stay. Why? Because they are having an impact on human behavior.
There is nothing like the surprise of a negative review to get the heartbeat racing and the emotions seething. Let’s face it. When a less then savory review is placed on one of your review pages, it hits home and it smarts. Or the JOY when a positive review is placed that reflects the hard work your team incorporates in the business every day. Who wants to deal with the emotional roller coaster? Very few funeral homes. So they don’t. And there lies within the problem.
There are a couple of myths that are swirling around the market place. Both of the myths are embedded in the struggle of the I-do-not-want-to-deal-with-online-reviews. The myths are:
If we do not look then there will not be any reviews posted.
If we have someone else manage our reviews it will still show up on Google, right?
Constantly, I am peppered with the questions such as “How do I turn off my review areas” (Answer: you cannot they are owned by other companies). “People cannot just go leave reviews when they want right?” (Answer: yes any time of day or night). “How do I have the negative reviews removed? (Answer: with difficulties and if you can, the process will be as painful as a root canal).
If I cannot have my reviews areas turned off, my reviews removed, people can leave reviews whenever they want and I have intense distaste in managing reviews then I will just hire it done right? (Answer: maybe. Depends on the definition of the word managed). Online reviews have gone through a few intelligent evolutions since becoming mainstream in November 2010. The latest version of Google reviews for example, requires a person to have an account on Google. When the review is written the person writing the review will see a message that their name will be attached to the review. Basically, you have something to say and then own it. With this concept, companies that were hiring people to go and leave rave reviews on Google for a business no longer could. Google flags people who leave high volume of reviews day in and day out. I think this is a good concept.
Here is the rub. A company can assist your business in managing reviews by doing the heavy lifting in “claiming” or acquiring your username and password and can coach your staff in how to ask and respond to reviews. Your staff needs to ASK from your FAMILY MEMBERS for the review to be posted directly on Google, Yahoo, Bing and City Search, etc.. There are no short cuts. If another company asks and posts reviews from your family members on their website OTHER than Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., those reviews will not be seen by people searching on those search engines. Period.
When researching for an online management provider, here are a few questions to ask to see if they can assist your business.
1. Where are the reviews posted once they are written? (Answer: Directly on Google, Yahoo and Bing by the family member NOT the online review management companies website).
2. Who owns the reviews once they are posted? (Answer: Google, Yahoo and Bing NOT the online review management company helping your business).
3. Does our company have to assist to “claim” my Google+ Local Area, Yahoo Local, etc.? (Answer: Yes, because these companies will contact the funeral home to verify they are the ones requesting the username and password versus someone trying to hijack the identity of the business).
The bottom line is that it’s time for funeral home owners to embrace the concept of Online Reviews. They are here to stay. By being proactive with your brand management, you can help improve your bottom line and create a better, long-lasting relationship with your families. FBA
Kelly Baltzell, CEO manages the Beyond Indigo family of companies, which she founded in 1997. Under her leadership, Beyond Indigo companies have developed all types of funeral home websites and software such as Light A Candle that now reach millions of people each year. Kelly’s depth of experience, passion, and visionary approach to the industry make her an unparalleled leader in Internet marketing.