Local Lead Generation: How to Turn More “Near Me” Searches into Leads

Pat Johnson

The way consumers find, choose, and purchase from businesses has changed dramatically over the last few years. 60% of local shoppers now begin their search on Google to quickly and easily find the option that best fits their needs and promises to deliver a positive experience. 

No matter the quality of your salespeople, regardless of how well you run your local operations, and irrespective of the size of your marketing budget, your online reputation will likely be the consumer’s first impression. 

For marketers who are resistant to change, this presents a significant challenge. In truth, your online reputation is not entirely within your control. It is primarily driven by customer reviews, which serve as the engine that shapes perceptions of your brand among prospective customers. 

Therefore, it’s critical to take the steps to ensure that what customers see online – where they are first introduced to you – encourages them to select your business.

The risk of not addressing your online reputation

Imagine you’re in the market for a new car. You know the type of car you want – a Jeep – but you’re new to the city and aren’t familiar with car dealerships around you. You hop on to Google and search “Jeep Dealers Near Me”. You see the following Google Map listings: 

Imperial Jeep Englewood

  • 4.7 star rating
  • 2,382 reviews
  • Features an image of a new Jeep Wrangler

John Moritz Jeep Englewood

  • 2.9 star rating 
  • 40 reviews
  • Features an image that is clearly a stock photo of a car salesman

Which location are you more likely to want to learn more about? 

Here’s the kicker: John Moritz Jeep may actually be the right choice for your purchase. But as the consumer, you would have a hard time believing that, because compared to Imperial Jeep Englewood:

It could very well be the case that you, as the shopper, would have a better experience at John Moritz Jeep Englewood – they may have a better inventory, friendlier salespeople, and better financing options. But you will very likely never know that, because you are more inclined to believe that more people like you had a better experience at Imperial Jeep Englewood.

Lets now imagine that you are the GM of John Moritz Jeep Englewood. You’ve been in the automotive industry for decades, and you know for a fact that your dealership has the best salespeople, the largest inventory, and the most approachable financing options in Englewood. But over the last few years, your dealership has seen a steady decrease in foot traffic, despite most of your customers happily leaving your dealership in the right car for them. Your operations have remained the gold standard in the area, your prices are competitive, and you make sure your salespeople treat every customer with respect and kindness. 

You consider the possibility that you may need to run more marketing campaigns – radio spots, local TV commercials, even billboards – but you know that your dealership already has the largest marketing budget in Englewood. 

The reality of this situation is that your business is doing everything right – except managing your online reputation, while your competition is. And for countless local businesses across all industries, this is the single biggest blocker to getting the leads you deserve.

Brands that deliver on their standards and create top-tier experiences for their shoppers will not win in 2024 without ensuring that their reputation – that is, what customers searching for businesses like theirs in their area – see immediately.

This is the cost of inaction when it comes to your online reputation – local businesses that excel at what they do continue to lose leads to inferior competitors that take control of their online reputation. The cliche is true – a first impression is a lasting one; for local businesses everywhere, your first impression almost always happens online.

The best ROI of any marketing channel, according to 49% of marketers, is achieved via organic search.

Source: Search Engine Journey

The World Economic Forum reported that on average, over 25% of a company’s market value is directly attributable to its reputation, suggesting significant impacts of ORM on market valuation.

Source: Pirani

The benefit of managing your online reputation

We’ve talked about the risks of not prioritizing your online reputation – now let’s get to the fun part: the benefits your locations glean from taking the quality of your reviews & business listings seriously. 

First, it’s important to understand what matters most to people who are searching for local businesses using a search engine like Google: 

Listing Completeness: Most local businesses don’t need to be told that reviews matter to their online performance, but many fail to remember to also prioritize the quality of their business listings on key search sites. Google’s own research shows that customers are 70% more likely to visit and 50% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with a complete Business Profile. Think of business listings on sites like Google, Bing, and Apple Maps as your digital storefront. It offers viewers key information that plays a large role in their decision to contact your business, visit your location, and become a customer. Keeping your listings updated, accurate, and helpful for inquisitive searchers is an often overlooked component of a strong online reputation strategy.

Ranking in the top position on the first page of Google translates to a 39.8% organic click-through rate.

Source: First Page Sage

Customers are 2.7x more likely to consider your business “reputable” if they see a complete Business Profile when browsing Search and Google Maps.

Source: Google

The most important components of a strong online reputation

Brian Koslow, renowned US author and businessman, once said “there is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast” – and that couldn’t be more true for local businesses. 

Google and other search engines have made nailing your online reputation critical to your ability to get found and turn searchers into leads. 

But what matters most when it comes to your online presence? Where should you focus first? We have a few suggestions: 

1. Optimize your Business Listings

It’s tempting to think that the your first step should be gathering more reviews, but you should first make sure that all of your locations’ listings are accurate, up-to-date, and include relevant information that a customer would want to know about your business. The goal is to make customers feel empowered with the information they need to make your business the obvious choice to get in contact with.

This can be challenging with a high volume of locations with listings to manage, because things are constantly changing (both internally and on Google’s side). Your business hours, FAQ’s, photos, and more are all small but meaningful examples of putting your best foot forward and making your business easy to learn about and contact – which search engines reward by ranking complete listings higher.

An effective Business Listings solution should give you the ability to add and edit listing information for one or several of your locations, and automatically audit the information on each of your listings to flag any potentially incorrect information.

2. Verify your Business Listings

As of 2023, only 64% of Google Business Profiles (GBPs) are verified. This is an easy step that businesses can take to prove their credibility to searchers online that has significant downstream effects.

According to Google’s own research, verified businesses are twice as likely to be considered “reputable” by search engine users. Verifying your listings ensures that only specific users connected to the business can change the listing, and also impacts search ranking. And going one step further, a recent study found that businesses that claim their free listings on at least 3 review sites (like Google, Bing, Facebook, etc.) and earn 36% more revenue than those that don’t. 

Verifying your listings is easy – especially with a reputation management tool that can help you through the process.

3. Want more reviews? Ask for them!

Think of reviews as the fuel that drives your business listings – one without the other won’t take you very far. Once you have your listings optimized, it’s time to start piling up those reviews.

This may sound elementary, but many businesses fail to devote attention to requesting reviews from their customers. They often assume that a sales rep asking them to do so is enough to have them do it, but study after study shows that very few customers will submit a review without being solicited for it (and the ones that do are proportionally more negative).

Think of your happy customers as a silent majority – they’ve all had wonderful experiences with you, but often aren’t going to take time out of their day to leave a review on your key listing sites. However, research shows that 77% of people are willing to leave a customer review when asked (Forbes).

That’s why it’s crucial to have a system and process in place that makes leaving a review simple and fast, no matter how many locations your business has.

4. No Review Left Unanswered

Responding to reviews shows potential leads that your business cares enough about customers to engage with them post-sale. It’s a small but crucial piece of establishing an online presence that builds customer trust and loyalty. The key is to respond to ALL reviews – positive and negative – to ensure customers feel heard and appreciated for their feedback. 

Speaking of negative reviews: they’re an inevitable part of doing business today, and one you should take seriously. However, negative reviews show authenticity in your brand – nobody is perfect 100% of the time. They can also be a great opportunity for your business to show that you care when your service doesn’t meet customer expectations. 

By responding to negative reviews and showing the steps you’re taking to remedy the situation, you accomplish two things: 

Online Reputation Management includes managing both reviews AND business listings to differentiate you from your competition and drive more leads to your locations.

BONUS: Reviews don’t just drive leads – they educate.

We’ve covered a lot about the benefits of establishing your business’s reputation online – and the risks associated with not prioritizing it. Businesses often find that adding a Review Management software that helps manage their reviews and business listings together delivers immediate impact to their lead volume and revenue. 

But you can take it one step further: the best review management tools don’t just help you establish a steady flow of reviews at each of your locations, but they help uncover critical insights about how your customers think, feel, and speak about your business. By using a reputation management solution that can leverage text analytics to highlight key themes and trends in your customer reviews, you’re able to pinpoint areas of improvement across your entire business. It’s the linchpin that makes reviews not only a lead driver, but an operational improvement tool. 

For multi-location enterprises, few solutions can do this effectively at scale. Some solutions, like Reputation, make utlizing the review data of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of locations quick and easy, with advanced insights like our patented Reputation Score, which aggregates your entire online presence (reviews, listings, social media, and more) into a single metric that has been proven to tightly correlate with lead generation and revenue. Plus, it leverages AI to highlight the most impactful changes your business can make (at the brand and location-level) to continually improve both your marketing and customer experience efforts. 

The first impression is a lasting one – ensure every one of your locations puts its best foot forward online in 2024.

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