An Auto Dealer’s Guide to Online Reputation Management
Most auto dealers realize that positive customer reviews on websites like DealerRater.com can generate business, while negative reviews can hurt business. As a result, many dealers have begun to watch these review sites very closely. An even bigger concern than a group of reviews on a specific website, however, is the fact that dealership reviews are aggregated by search engines. Google and Bing actively search for business reviews to include in their search engine results. A quick search by a potential customer for your business name can summon not just your website, but also reviews, blog posts, Twitter mentions, and more. With one click, prospects and clients come face to face with a page that lists at a glance the good, the bad, and the ugly about you.
The end goal of online reputation management is to make sure that your dealership’s top 10 search engine results are positive. Here’s what you need to do to manage your store’s online reputation:
1. Track all mentions
Track all of the online mentions of your dealership so that you can respond to them immediately. Use automated keyword tracking tools such as Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, uberVU.com, and TweetBeep.com to scan the internet for specific words (such as "Hometown Chevrolet") and then email you when new instances of these keywords are found.
2. Respond quickly and correctly
Positive mentions like good reviews and friendly blog posts can be leveraged. First, offer a modest thanks to the reviewer or blogger. Next, record the web address of each positive mention so you can use them to “stack the deck” as described below.
When you find a negative mention, your primary goal is to convince the commenter to either amend or rewrite their comment. A good tactic is to publicly extend an offer to revisit the customer’s concerns. Not only can this restart a dialogue, it also demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction to outsiders who come across this mention.
3. Stack the search results in your favor
Keyword alerts and quick responses are your first line of defense against negative mentions. However, you don’t have to wait for negative mentions to happen in order to diffuse them. Here’s how to “stack the deck” of search results for your dealership:
1. Encourage your happy customers to review your dealership on all the major review sites such as DealerRater, Yelp, Kudzu, and Google maps.
2. Create a dealership business page on Facebook.
3. Create personal profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Naymz, and Google Profiles for the dealer principal, sales and service managers, service writers, and salespeople to help protect their individual online reputations.
4. Issue regular press releases with your dealership name in the headline.
5. Buy pay-per-click ads for your dealership name.
4. Accentuate the positive
When you find a positive review on a blog, forum, or review website, leverage it by linking to it. Links are like votes—the more links a web page has, the more likely it is to appear high in the search results. By creating links to positive mentions, you can push them into the top 10 search results.
5. Remain vigilant
Online reputation management begins and ends with constant vigilance. You can’t capitalize on the goodwill of positive mentions or diffuse negative mentions if you don’t know about them, so read those alerts carefully!
Jason Lancaster is an auto industry veteran and internet marketing expert. As founder of Spork Marketing, he helps dealers nationwide to increase visibility and sales. He can be reached at SporkMarketing.com.
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