Have you ever wondered how to generate more positive online reviews for your business? Are you struggling to get your business listed higher than your competitors on Google? Now’s your chance to learn best practices for managing your online listings and reviews from the best in the industry! Our ask the experts: Reputation Management and Local Listings webinar was filled with valuable insights you can draw from.

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In this webinar, we brought together several experts who took on live questions about reputation management and listings management. Choose a topic in the menu below to navigate to that specific question, or grab a beverage and dig in from top to bottom. If you prefer to listen to the audio, you’ll find the webinar recording on-demand at the end of this post. And of course, if you have any questions as you peruse the contents of this webinar, we’re happy to help.

Navigate to the Q&A on:

The Most Important Aspect of SEO to Rank Higher In Google
Combating a Negative Reputation on Yelp
The Impact of Responding to Negative and Positive Reviews
The Top Three Directories for Contractor Service Area Businesses
Best Timing To Respond to Reviews
How Far Back Should You Go to Respond to Reviews
Value of Review Management Software
The Best Time to Send a Transactional NPS Survey
How Medical Companies Worried about HIPAA and PHI can Tackle Review Management
Dealing with the GMB Listings of Providers that are No Longer with Your Organization
Locating GMB Listings with Newly Posted Reviews
Most Effective Way to Remove User-Uploaded Photos that Violate HIPAA
Best Way to Claim Rogue, Unauthorized GMB Listings
Best Practices for Zip Codes in your GMB Listings
Best Practices for Adding Posts to Multiple GMB Listings at Once
The Balance Between Managing Reviews for Franchises at the Corporate and Franchisor Level
The Option to Start Over on Google My Business
How Healthcare Marketers can Impact the Patient Experience Through Reviews and Listings Management
Granting Local Managers Access to Their Listings
Dealing with Suite Number Data for your GMB Listing
Strategies Brands Can Use to Encourage Their Customers to Share

What is the most important aspect of SEO when it comes to ranking higher in Google?

Krystal Taing: Assuming, that they’re doing all of the basics (they’ve got all their NAP on their website and their listings), I think anything that’s going to increase engagement–in particular, anything related to reviews, so make sure you’re managing your reviews on Google, on Yelp (if it’s relevant for your industry) and then getting those first-party reviews on your site and your local landing pages is going to be critical.

How do I combat a negative reputation on Yelp?

Aaron Clifford: This is a question that gets raised often–the best approach to reputation on Yelp is just to respond to the reviews and try to get those conversations offline. Address concerns, for sure, that are mentioned in the review, but always respond to reviews, whether that’s on Yelp or on Google My Business. It’s important to respond to reviews, but It’s really hard, especially since Yelp is against solicitation of reviews. So it’s not like you can ask people to leave a review, even if it’s negative or positive, just even asking any of your customers to share their experience on Yelp is against their approach. They prohibit it in their content guidelines, so really just respond to those reviews and do your best to do service recovery.

Reed Smith: I think being visible, transparent, and kind of honest–not robotic when it comes to responding to reviews, whether it’s Yelp or otherwise, I think is really important. I think we’ve seen historically a lot of people want to leave a review, but they don’t really want to resolve anything, so if they go there and they see that you’re active, it may actually head off some of those that are just looking to be negative for negativity’s sake.

What, if any, impact have you seen in your business as a result of responding to not just negative reviews, but the positive ones as well?

Aaron Clifford: While I was at HCA, many times we were given the opportunity to do service recovery and the reviewer would actually go back and update their review to let others know that “Hey, they’ve reached out to me,” and they had a positive experience from there. It just builds goodwill–you’re showing that you appreciate the feedback from your customers and you’re an engaged business. It helped out, sometimes we’d have people reach out offline with an “Oh, thank you!” or “Thank you for responding, you guys are kind,” you know, just some of that goodwill. There are some studies out there that have been done that showed one-third of reviews are updated and/or deleted after a company responds to a negative review. So that’s why it’s very important to engage, especially if you have the approach of service recovery.

Krystal Taing: I think users and consumers are going to be more engaging if they see you as a brand responding to all types of reviews, as opposed to those who just come to complain. I think them seeing a brand interacting and responding to reviews is going to encourage all types of feedback.

What are the top three directories to use for contractor service area businesses?

Krystal Taing: I would say probably one of the most underutilized service area business sites is likely going to be Manta for small businesses. You also want to make sure you’re in Thumbtack, House–all of those new kinds of trendy sites for these types of contractors. I know it’s the opposite of free, but something that I think is growing in a lot of industries is Google local service ads. Those are going to be a huge opportunity. They’re expanding to more markets and industries, so if they’re available for your industry, I would highly suggesting suggest looking into those.

What’s the best timing to respond to reviews? The same day, a few days, 24-hours?

John Musser: So we always teach that we want to respond to all reviews that come in within 24-hours. There’s a survey out there that shows 55 percent of reviewers expect a business response within a day, and then 30 percent expect a response within three days. But we really want to leverage within the 24-hour mark, not just if there are any negative reviews out there but positive as well. We always want to drive response time down, rather than wait a few days.

Reed Smith: I would say a lot of that has to do with how you’re staffed. I mean, from a resource standpoint (especially in healthcare or hospitals), if we glean something from a review and that person is still in the facility, being able to go and do that service recovery in-person is much more meaningful, and it’s probably more likely that they’re going to update the review if we can get to them while they’re still there. It’s not always possible depending on how you’re staffed or if it’s the weekend, but it’s a great conversation to have internally, asking “what are we capable of?” I think one of the worst things to do is set an expectation that we’ll like positive reviews in 15 minutes, but leave negative reviews to sit for several days–that’s a bad precedent to set.

John Musser: If you can see a client’s not happy before they leave with the service, you can nip the bud right there before they even leave and get online. So having that internal conversation with your team, especially at the franchise level, will go a long way.

How far back do I go to respond to reviews?

Aaron Clifford: Normally, anything that’s over a week, but it depends on your business. There’s always some situations where I would not go back past a week or two with responding to reviews. If you haven’t started until today, just start from this point forward with responding.

Do you think consumers see any value in the reviews that come through programs like Listen360?

Aaron Clifford: This is a software that asks for reviews, versus organic review aggregators like Google or Yelp. I’m not familiar with Listen360 but I assume that’s a first-party review site. Most of the studies that I’ve seen say around 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as an in-person recommendation, so it definitely has an impact. Binary Fountain just did their own study where we asked 1,000 individuals about the influence online reviews have in their decision of choosing a provider and 75% said that it definitely has an impact, and Google likes first-party reviews and so we see an influence there.

John Musser: We actually use Listen360 to help with our NPS score. It’s survey-based, so it’s not a review platform like Google or Facebook, Yelp or anything like that. But it does let us know internally how we’re doing at the location level. How we utilize Listen360 on a website basis, is that we have the ability to publish those surveys online to go after certain keywords of what clients are saying in their surveys to help us index better when it comes to search, but for us, it’s primarily to measure NPS. But we always want to go after Google, first-party reviews as much as possible.

Krystal Taing: I would say any business that relies highly on service, particularly like restaurants and hotels, the Googles and the Yelps are going to be really critical. But operationally, if you truly want to use the reviews and the feedback to improve your brand and your business, I think I think surveys are a great opportunity.

How often and what time is best to send a transactional NPS survey?

Reed Smith: Early and often, though I guess it somewhat depends on your business. I think that’s where customer journey mapping comes in, to help understand logically where some insertion points are that you would want to measure NPS. So from a transactional standpoint in healthcare, the point of discharge is obviously one of those where historically it’s been sent. But now we’re starting to look at other points, like wouldn’t you want to know after registration or different points in care? I think this probably varies quite a bit.

John Musser: SportClips goes right after service, so when a client gets finished they’re sent a randomized survey.

As a medical company that has to worry about HIPAA and PHI, any recommendation about responding to reviews?

Reed Smith: I would say you don’t try to address it outright. Now, you do respond, but you don’t try to address the concern necessarily because of PHI and HIPAA. You’ve got to involve your legal counsel in this and you want to try to get that conversation offline, but you have to get it offline to that specific person. You can’t resolve anything in a back-and-forth dialogue in a review setting anyway, and so trying to get this offline really helps in two ways: you don’t get into a back and forth online, and you can actually help them. A lot of times, we’re seeing things in health care where it’s not necessarily even the patient that’s writing the review–it’s the spouse or the granddaughter, whoever happened to be in the room, so there’s not a lot you can do for those folks anyway. And chances are pretty good they’re not going to call you and they’re not trying to resolve anything. But if it’s actually an issue like a billing concern, or rude staff, or that kind of thing, they will call. So it’s important to connect those reviews with people that would handle that anyway. Think about like this: if someone walked into a hospital and had a complaint, who would they talk to? Is it the risk manager? Is it somebody in patient advocacy? That’s how you kind of build that process–you still respond it, but you have to be somewhat generic because of HIPAA, and then you try to connect them to somebody that can help them offline.

Aaron Clifford: There are times some complaints and issues come through that aren’t necessarily related to the care that was provided to the patient, but it might be something around the online portal or an issue with the website or ancillary parking. It’s okay to go into a little bit more detail on that because other people may have the same complaint and you’re able to hedge off additional comments about it If you give a complete answer. There are some responses that you can go a little bit more in-depth, but never to where you’re addressing the patient or getting anywhere near HIPPA or PHI. There are no recorded cases necessarily that I’ve seen so far of violating HIPAA on review responses, but you don’t want to be the first–you don’t want to become the case study!

I manage 400-plus GMB listings for providers in our medical practice. When someone leaves, is it better to mark them as permanently closed, or should I just remove the listing? If I remove the listing, will the provider be able to reopen a listing under the same name in their new location?

Krystal Taing: I think it depends, which I know is not a great answer. But I would say, likely, you want to remove the listing with a few caveats: does the provider name also have the branded hospital name on it as well? Is it going to the hospital website? Those are elements you want to consider before purely removing it because that means you’re still going to create a negative, potential customer scenario if they go to your website and then no longer see their provider there. So I would say if you can make a multi-step process by removing any branded organizational information and then removing it that way, should the provider go somewhere else or want to clean the listings themselves. But worst-case scenario, if you can’t remove the branded information, I think marking it as permanently closed is completely fine.

I’ve heard if you manage more than 100 GMB listings, you will not receive alerts to your new reviews. Is that true? And if so, what can you do quickly to locate listings with newly posted reviews?

Krystal Taing: Yes, it’s true. It’s a limitation of GMB. Any account that has more than 100 locations won’t get alerts–not just for reviews, but for anything like Q&A or any other elements. There are little tricks though–if you have around 500 locations with manager access, that will enable alerts. But anything over 500, you would have to use a tool. Otherwise, the only way to do is go through each of your locations, manually keep track of your reviews and then somehow notice whenever another review comes, but at that point, I really think a reputation management tool is going to be your best bet.

What is the most effective way to remove user uploaded photos? If for example, they show the wrong location or violate HIPAA?

Krystal Taing: The first thing you’re going to want to do is flag it–that’s always going to be the very first step. If you have multiple people that can flag it as well, that’s helpful. Then really just reaching out to Google Support. If it’s not naturally removed by their algorithm, someone has to manually review it and a manual review is going to be applied when you flag it. But if it’s truly like a scene or a big issue, I think contacting Google Support or reaching out to a provider that can reach out to Google on your behalf is your next step.

Reed Smith: It’s very common. And it’s you know, it’s like you don’t even know what you’re looking at half the time.–t’s like you hate to stare too hard. But I think certainly flagging it or even having multiple people in the organization flag it all at once is helpful and then certainly if you’re working with a provider on listing management, usually they will have additional avenues of contact and so that’s a great way to go.

Aaron Clifford: It’s not review related, but we have had many instances where individuals would check-in to a facility and they’re in there taking an Instagram picture of their account number and MRN number on their wrist bracelet that they got from the hospital. You can’t control that, you know patients, they’re going to do it they want to do, but you got to be careful with that. It’s probably education on the other end of that on what to share and whatnot.

What is the best way to find and claim rogue, unauthorized GMB listings? Should you claim them or simply request that they are closed?

Krystal Taing: So for this one, you do have a couple of avenues to actually find it. Maybe you’ve done searches and found some–we have a report that goes out and basically scours Google and finds potential rogue listings and then it really just requires a human to go through and say “Is this a duplicate? Is this something that should be merged? Should it be removed altogether or permanently closed?” Then from there, I would only claim if it’s something you want to keep up. If it’s something that’s a duplicate or a rogue listing, that needs to be removed. Google actually doesn’t want your claim on it because they think, for some reason, there’s an association and it shouldn’t be removed or they have to look deeper. So (specifically for duplicates) if you want to remove, do not claim it.

What is the best practice for zip code, since you can find physicians from all over in US News & World Report? Is it appropriate to put in zip codes from other states that we see patients in, even though our organization only exists in one place?

Krystal Taing: So you would only want to put ZIP codes in as a service area if you, as a business or professional, are going to perform your business there. If patients are flying in to visit you, you only can use your ZIP codes that you operate out of. Outside of that, I would leverage your website to explain that to patients so they can visit you. But as far as GMB, the zip codes only work if you are servicing your potential patient in that area. This is very relevant for very specific service lines as well.

Is there a best practice for adding posts to over 132 listings at one time? It’s very time-consuming just go in and add posts to Google listings one at a time?

Krystal Taing: Unfortunately no, not at this time. It’s one by one if you’re seen as a multi-location company–if you are an agency and you’re just working with 1322 different locations, as long as those individual locations are not labeled as chains by Google then you could use the API. But right now, if you’re a multi-location brand, you’ll literally get an error back when you try to post via API.

John Musser: What we do is give complete manager access on GMB, so the local teams can go ahead and post whatever they want on Google, it doesn’t have to necessarily roll up to the corporate side of things. It’s managed locally.

I’d love to hear someone speak to the balance between managing review responses for franchises at the corporate level and having franchisees involved with managing their own review responses. At what point does it become big corporate stepping in too far and losing some level of authentic response?

John Musser: Anything that’s coming from the local side of reviews is actually managed by our local franchisees and their team. Any reviews that happen with us corporately (because we do have a few company-owned stores) that gets handled internally with our own teams. And so we really kind of push everything down locally to local teams. We use platforms like Rio to help with managing the conversation and the authentic voice behind it. One particular function is using a template for responses–it shows examples of what to say when it comes to responses, but then they also have the ability to add in their own voice and make any updates. We’re very unique in that any local responses have to be coming from the franchise-level, but it can’t all be necessarily coming from the corporate side of things because we aren’t able to respond on their behalf.

Krystal Taing: I think what SportClips, in particular, has done really well and any organization needs to do in order to be successful, is really invest in training on the importance of responding to reviews, like what type of language to use. I think what we run into oftentimes is that for these franchise managers and owners, this is their livelihood. They’re running the operation, they’re doing the paperwork–so when they respond to reviews, maybe they’re going to take it too personally. I think before you give them the reins, make sure you’ve invested in training and give them guidelines so that they feel like they’re supported by corporate, but it is coming from their voice.

Aaron Clifford: In my experiences, when evaluating a number of different clinics and how they were managing their reviews prior to us having a corporate program, it was all over the map–either no one responded or they were responding inappropriately. We had times where there was just some really rogue stuff that was happening, and so corporate had to come in and go, “Here are the guidelines.” We weren’t overseeing and overlords but we definitely wanted that local response. Just in doing an audit, if you are a franchise that has franchisees and you’ve not done an audit, there might be some good guidelines and policies to put in place and make sure that you’re measuring those and communicating them because there are some things that could be costing your franchisees some business. They just may be ignorant of it and how it might be impacting their reputation and their brand at a local level.

Are there ways to have a new, fresh start regarding GMB reviews? What are their options to start over again with GMB?

Krystal Taing: So, within guidelines, if they’ve changed management and rebranded, they could technically create a new listing and close the other down. However, just because you have a bad reputation, you’re still going to have an uphill battle, in regards to ranking with your other listings still ranking beside the bad ones. I would say your time is probably better spent just asking every single customer that comes in to leave a review, ask them how their service was, and really training your staff to make this a priority. Say “This is important to us. I know you guys have all worked hard. We want to guide you and be successful here. This is what we need to do.” I would say that’s likely going to be your best path forward, as opposed to starting over.

John Musser: A technique that we use is, because this will happen as we get franchisees that leave the network and new ones come in and take over the existing store, we really go after those best, loyal clients that come in and invite them to leave us a review, along with sending emails for surveys. Just kind of spreading the word kind of helps change things around because it has to be done organically and authentically. We can’t force them to leave the reviews, so it just it’s a timing thing, being patient with it and then over a period of time, it’s going to start to turn around. I know when clients look at recent reviews, they don’t go back more than two weeks and so, the more relevant the reviews are coming in, the better the service is going to be. Then over time, it’s going to have a better rating and ranking within Google.

Krystal Taing: Yeah, I’ve seen that a few times you’ll see the reviews shift pretty dramatically on a business and you can tell that there has been some change. Oftentimes, even if you ask for reviews and say, “how do you like our new management? Give us some feedback on Google about our new management,” then that trains users to start leaving reviews about the new management, which then tells potential consumers, “Hey, let’s give this business a try. Even if we went there before and weren’t happy, let’s try it again because there’s some pretty positive feedback about the new management.”

Aaron Clifford: There are studies that show that the more recent reviews are more impactful than older ones, so there is that turnaround situation. Google has zero qualms about you reaching out and asking customers to share their experience online, they just don’t like you gating reviews at all. But in terms of just sending the positive folks who have good experience to GMB, ask everybody. Chances are, you’re doing a good job and you’re going to get really good reviews.

Krystal Taing: Actually, Google has actually started auto-populating Google posts that highlight your positive reviews. They create a graphic, but if for some reason you don’t like it, you can go create a very similar graphics just highlighting some of your positive reviews, despite your average review rating. Highlight some of your new recent reviews and even saying, “Hey, we have new management, check out some of our recent reviews or see what this person has to say,” and that’s another way to kind of combat your history.

What do you think should be top of mind as an opportunity in healthcare marketing today?

Reed Smith: In most cases, we’re competing in a local or regional market. There are very few specialty hospitals out there that are getting this “destination medicine” where people are flying in from all over the country or world. So, in most cases you’re competing locally and when we start to come out and everybody’s hearing about “the digital front door,” people are looking online for those resources. Where patients used to just search for a physician online, it became “a physician near me,” and then “a physician near me with 5 stars”. Because of this, I think reviews and listing management are some of the primary ways that we could impact the patient experiences as they come in contact with our organizations. I would make sure that the information online is correct and that you own those listings and control them or monitor them and, and take this seriously that you have somebody that is partially dedicated to keeping up and making sure this is correct and that we’re responding to people online in a timely fashion. That goes outside of just reviews, obviously. There are people asking questions through private messages on Facebook or Instagram or whatever it may be, but it’s that community management piece you need and working within your local community to be a resource.

Should local managers have access to their listings?

John Musser: Our strategy for SportClips is, yes. Local managers are probably going to be your most trusted team members at the local level–they got keys to the store, they got access to the register, so giving them access on a digital front is the next logical step. It does help with keeping, our strategies in place with review responding or posting on social channels. It may be that our local franchisee may not have time and so they delegate within their team so that someone’s going to have to do it, and the best resource to have is your local managers as well.

Krystal Taing: I know that most corporate, when it’s not franchise-based, they don’t typically want managers having access because there are likely corporate guidelines when they respond to reviews or update data. But Google did just roll out the ability for anyone at the store to be added as a site manager without corporate’s say, so they can go in and remove them. But right now you don’t have to require corporate to add you to get access to the listing. So I feel like it’s likely a shift, both from Google’s standpoint, but also from corporate, and a lot of it has to do with reviews and images and some of the rich content that comes in. Quite honestly, if you’re at corporate, you’ve got a couple thousand locations that you may not be paying attention to, like a small store in the small town, but the manager still wants to be able to provide some of that information.

John Musser: It’s really having a structure in place as well at the corporate level and teaching down. It keeps us well organized and things don’t really get dropped down to the nitty-gritty, but it’s just at the organizational level because we do want to have our corporate branding and we want to make sure that we have the guidelines that were coming from corporate, but still have the authentic voice. That’s our main priority is that we don’t want to feel like a robot, that it is a local community, and those in the local community have access to those assets.

I have found that when I had a suite number behind an address and GMB listing, it screws up the map. Is there a way around this?

Krystal Taing: I hate suite numbers when it comes to submitting data to Google! I typically just remove them if there’s an error. It really doesn’t like if you’re submitting your data to a Maps platform–it’s trying to place a map pin and the suite number just doesn’t mean anything. So typically add it if you have complaints about users not being able to find you in a large shopping center. Otherwise, I think the suite number on Google’s are irrelevant, especially if you have signage and it’s pretty clear to find you.

What are some strategies brands can use to encourage their customers to share their positive experiences online? Do Yelp and Google allow you to ask for reviews?

Reed Smith: Yes, you can ask for reviews. Yelp doesn’t love that and so the idea of having like tablets sitting around in rooms is probably not the best idea, especially from a Yelp standpoint. But I think having a way of reaching out is important because, in healthcare specifically, that when you’re given a CAHPS or HCAHPS survey, there’s been such a long span between what you’ve experienced and when you’re getting this formalized survey that it serves a couple of purposes. With Google, it gives you more real-time feedback and certainly, you would think with the more that you’re doing and the more you’re asking, you’re going to get more positive reviews.

Aaron Clifford: It’s always important to understand the content guidelines of each platform. So I understand what Yelp prohibits and what they allow, Google, Facebook, and others (Vitals, Healthgrades in the healthcare setting) but it really touched on something with regards to the registration and capturing and getting consent to communicate with the patients. It’s important to have that, because it allows you to do further email marketing and also, potentially, even texting the customers, asking them for patients and asking them to leave a review or share their experience. So, sometimes we just think of these things as a marketing initiative, but it actually impacts operations and you have to make sure that you’re dotting all your I’s Crossing all your T’s as it relates to obtaining that data and getting consent from the patient and working with your colleagues in the other service line, either in your facility or within your practice.

John Musser: One of the practices that we do is we have many redirects that go specifically to the stores, a Google listing or Facebook page where they’re going to leave a review because when you tell a client, “Hey, would you mind leaving us a review?” They’d have to go to log in with a Google account. What we do that it makes it really easy is give a link that takes you directly to the Google review sites and clients can just go in there and leave the review real quick. So we’ve done like, you know tips and tricks that you can leave that Bitly link on the back of a business card and hand it out to clients if they’re walking on the way out, asking them to leave us a review, or even capture our clients as they’re first coming in and sitting down, waiting to get a haircut, knowing that client is already a regular. So while they’re waiting for those 5 to 10 minutes before a haircut, they can just go ahead and leave the review and they know exactly where the URL is to go to.

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