One of the most surprising thing to me when talking to business owners is the large percentage that do not do the simplest thing to analyse the strength of their business online – regularly Googling their business name.

Searching your own business name regularly is not a only good idea – it’s essential.

Online presence is more than just positioning and visibility – it is by far the greatest and most valuable window into a business’ brand, offerings and vitality. Consumers are looking for certain things before even considering engaging, and it is critical to make sure that they are presented with the information they are looking for. Not doing so, is abandoning the possibility of converting searchers into customers.

“Websites used to signal legitimacy – having a website proved existence and were fantastic tools for promotion – but that was before the behaviour and desires of consumers changed radically.”

Last year BrightLocal published their industry respected annual survey on online reviews, and apart from the upward trajectory of the importance of online reviews to consumers – over 95% – a striking finding was the percentage of fewer people clicking business’ websites than the year before – 17%. What does that really mean? It signals that websites are not the be all and end all for online searchers, that they once were.

“Imagine a customer going online to find out more about your business only to see a profile with the same name but in Canada? Bang – they are gone and on to the next business to spend their money with.”

Websites used to signal legitimacy – having a website proved existence and were fantastic tools for promotion – but that was before the behaviour and desires of consumers changed radically. Consumers are actively seeking authenticated reviews – and that means that even if a website has a testimonial page where it displays cut and pasted reviews from satisfied customers – it does not satisfy consumer demand. Those reviews may look good but they can also be manipulated, faked, they often have no dates, and do not convert potential customers into actual customers.

“That one box contains so much valuable information for consumers and is a fantastic conversion tool.”

The reason that 17% percent less searchers in 2017 clicked on a website is because of the more important information they may see in a search – a Google My Business Profile, in conjunction with authenticated online reviews. A Google My Business Profile is a total no brainer for every business. Firstly the price is right – they are free – and they are one of the best ways of cementing a business name online. I am still surprised at the number of times I will Google a local business name only to see a Google My Business Profile for another business with the same name in another country! A total lost opportunity. Imagine a customer going online to find out more about your business only to see a profile with the same name but in Canada? Bang – they are gone and on to the next business to spend their money with.

“Thinking like a potential customer really is the key to ensuring the online health of your business”

A Google My Business Profile contains a map location, images, logo, contact details, opening times, and since 2016 they also include review totals and percentages from third part review sites – as well as Google reviews. That one box contains so much valuable information for consumers and is a fantastic conversion tool.

But in conjunction with authenticated reviews coming up in the Google body search it is gold to every business – especially when you consider that it is enough to motivate a consumer toward picking up the phone, instead of going to a business website.

Thinking like a potential customer really is the key to ensuring the online health of your business. Taking the time to Goggle your business name and analysing the results is essential – is there enough for a customer to contact you? Is there something there stopping them picking up the phone? If your reputation is not visible online, then all the other things you may be spending money on to appear on Google are a total waste of money, time, and effort.

NoCowboys is New Zealand’s online reputation marketing platform. Since 2006 they have helped thousands of Kiwi businesses. Contact them by email here.

To sign up to a free Google My Business Profile – go here