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What to Do With Online Reviews: An Action Plan for Self-Storage Operators

Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth marketing and they can be critical to your self-storage operation, not just from the perspective of business reputation, but in relation to search-engine rankings. Learn why it’s important to monitor and respond to these posts.

All online reviews—positive and negative—impact the success of your self-storage business. To ensure you’re attracting and not repelling customers, and to maintain a high ranking in local search, you must be generating and responding to these posts. If your facility doesn’t have any online reviews or your average star rating dips below four, you may be scaring away new tenants and under-ranking in search results.

The Impact of Reviews

Having positive reviews really makes a difference for local businesses like self-storage. Native reviews on your Google My Business page help you attract new renters because they reflect consumer trust, which is a key ranking factor. Think of reviews as the new word-of-mouth marketing. They affect the overall user experience and click-through rate.

Reviews stand as one of the most important touchpoints along the buyer’s journey. According to a survey from marketing firm BrightLocal, 57 percent of consumers wouldn’t use a business with an overall rating lower than four stars. They read an average of 10 reviews before trusting a business and definitely consult reviews before making a purchase decision.

Reviews also have a big impact on your local search ranking. In fact, review signals, including quality, velocity and diversity, account for 6.5 percent of localized organic search-ranking factors, according to Moz, a software firm that specializes in search engine optimization (SEO). That percentage increases to 15.4 percent within Google’s “Local Pack,” a section of search results that shows local businesses.

Moz also cites the quality of native Google reviews as being the second most important factor when it comes to competitive difference-makers, even ranking ahead of the domain authority of your website. Reviews have jumped in importance when it comes to increasing visibility for results powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, a system that understands facts about people, places and things and how they’re connected. Positive reviews also help your website’s SEO, including keyword and category association, content creation, and link generation.

How Many Reviews Do You Need?

You may be wondering how many reviews you need to achieve your desired ranking in local search. According to key findings from BrightLocal, top-ranking local businesses have an average of 39 Google reviews. Storage companies specifically have an average of 17. Seventy-four percent of local businesses and 74 percent of storage companies have at least one Google review.

In general, businesses appearing in the top three local positions have an average of 47 reviews. Companies in positions seven through 10 have an average of 38. Research shows a correlation between higher local rankings and the number of Google reviews a business has. The average star rating from all industries surveyed is 4.4, with the average for self-storage at 4.3.

At a minimum, you should have 10 Google reviews, but aim for 17 to 39. While the number of reviews you need to increase your search ranking varies, it’s best to consider review generation an ongoing part of your SEO and reputation-management strategy.

Best Practices for Responding to Reviews

Before you start answering reviews, it’s important to develop a reputation-management strategy so all team members know how and when to respond. Decide who’ll be responsible. If you have more than one facility, determine if each location should manage its own reviews or a corporate office should handle it. Then follow these pointers.

Find your voice. Work with your team to create a tone and response style that fits your overall brand, image and location. Keep your posts personal and human. Own up to your mistakes, but don’t go overboard. You want to be able to respond without being too transparent or apologetic. Stay consistent to make the process efficient and your brand strong.

Respond to negative reviews appropriately. Knowing how to respond to bad reviews can be tricky, but it’s essential. First, apologize and thank the reviewer for his feedback. Be specific and professional. You may want to continue the conversation offline if the person is especially agitated. Regardless of the issue, keep your response short and to the point.

Don’t ignore positive reviews. Include guidelines for responding to positive reviews in your reputation-management strategy. Thank reviewers for their feedback and invite them to do business with you again. Don’t use generic, scripted responses. Refer to their review and highlight specific details that stood out. Responding to positive reviews reinforces the good experience. Potential renters reading reviews and responses get a feel for the customer service they can expect at your property.

Analyze engagement. Reputation management does more than maximize the revenue impact of online reviews. This valuable tool can also be used to highlight areas that need improvement and provide insight to how to increase your social media engagement. Reputation and social goals should align with your overall sales and revenue goals with clear definition and purpose.

Reviews can’t be ignored if you want to attract new renters, increase engagement and encourage return business. In the past, renters asked friends for self-storage recommendations. Positive word-of-mouth brought in new renters. In the digital age, reviews are the new word-of-mouth. They also factor heavily in your local search ranking. By developing a review-management strategy, your self-storage business can attract and retain new business.

Celena Canode is a marketing campaign manager at G5, a provider of digital marketing solutions to the self-storage industry. It’s a predictive marketing software-as-a-service company that uses artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies to help marketers amplify their impact. Through its Intelligent Marketing Cloud, G5 delivers performance and scalability through predictive analytics, hyper-personalized customer experiences and continuous spend optimization. For more information, call 800.554.1965; visit www.getg5.com.

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