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James Schaefer

James Schaefer Chief Operating Officer

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Opinion about Google+, Reviews, and Online Reputation Management

Everyone has an opinion about how to use Google+ and posting reviews.  We see the extreme from hoping your customers post a good review to allowing the “real experts to post your reviews”.

Those of you, who finish reading this blog, will receive information many companies don’t want to tell you or just don’t know how to do.  Furthermore, your sales both repeat and referrals will increase, your branding will dominate across the web through all of the social media sites, you will have published positive reviews that stick, and your search engine optimization (SEO) value will be stronger than ever.

As I travel across the country helping automotive dealerships improve sales and retaining their customers I am exposed to many theories about how to win the battle for market share.  The battle is usually lost by many because there is no strategy involved.  I will talk about this later in the article.

The facts are:

66% of consumers use the internet to research an item online before their purchase
•89% of consumers research vehicle reviews online before they make their purchase
•62% of all consumers read consumer-written product reviews online (with the highest percentage coming from 22-35 year olds (82%) while 36+ at 45%)
69% of consumers who read reviews share them with friend, family, or colleagues, thus amplifying their impact in consumer behavior
82% of consumers say their purchase decisions have been directly influence by the user reviews, either influencing them to buy a different product other than the one they had originally been thinking about

Therefore it is necessary to pay attention to how you are managing your Online Reputation.  Before we discuss how to help your online reputation, we need to identify what Online Reputation is.


Online Reputation is the individual, consumer, business or products perceived reputation identified on the World Wide Web recorded by reviews, blogs, websites, social media platforms, and the media.  Individuals over the age of 37 will understand this simply as reputation.  However, with the invention of the web, we have become more sophisticated and added online because all of the information is available at our fingertips.

Once businesses figured out their reputation can be researched by anyone online they either turn to a so called “online reputation expert or manager” or try themselves to assist with cleaning or keeping clean their reputation.  The problem is that because the knowledge is foreign to many dealership principles or general managers, the dealership is susceptible to malpractice.  A bad online reputation will cost you money!


Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the practice of understanding or influencing an individual or business brand. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but advancement in computing, the internet and social media made it primarily an issue of search results. Although it is often associated with ethical grey areas such as astro-turfing review sites, trying to censor negative complaints or using gamey SEO tactics to influence results, there are also ethical forms of reputation management, such as responding to customer complaints, asking sites to take down incorrect information and using online feedback to influence product development and other insights.

Let’s be very clear before you read on.  If you are looking for a company that is offering you a quick fix, if you refuse to offer great service and a good product, or want to deceive consumers than you WILL NOT want to read further.  I am not in the business to mislead our consumers.  I am in the business to help businesses share with the world how great their company and product is.  If that is you, then you will want to continue to read.

Online Reputation is NOT just about reviews although it is a major factor for businesses that rely on consumer opinion.  Online Reputation is built by having a presence throughout the World Wide Web.

The following is a list of web locations and Best Practices you must have in order to maximize your Online Reputation (I am assuming you care about your customers, want to be successful, and have a great product or service you believe in):

Strong Locals such as Google and Yahoo (there are over 150 you should be aware of) that are accurate and completed in their entirety to maximize local searches.  These local sites will also help consumers identify correct reviews.
Blog Pages (There are many, and they all index differently) This is the same as a newsletter that you share with your customers, but now you are able to share with the world about your company and information about your product or service.
•Social Media Sites that focus on images.  Pinterest has become the 3rd most popular URL site in the world; however, nobody heard of this site 6 months ago.  (Again, there are hundreds of these types of sites)
Social Media Sites that focus on videos.  Almost everyone has heard about YouTube, but what about other sites such as MetaCafe and others?  Videos index greater on places like Google and are an inexpensive way to share your message 24/7.
•Social Media Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and more (new popular sites are developed every day) which thrive on content.
•PR Blog that you can share with the world extraordinary events that you would love for mainstream media to pick up and share with the world.
•A well-built website that has basic stuff like a really good Title, Meta, Alt, and Text optimized for any of the search engines. There are more requirements in building a great website such as where to place the phone number, and others, but these are some of the basics.
XML site map and HTML site map.  Google and Bing (Yahoo) only except XML.  You will want to have all of your sites easily found by all of the search engines.
A Strategy, and the ability to have all of these tools working together to promote your business.  (I have heard of companies that say they can do this for $695 a month, and I can assure you that a company like this will not be able to provide you what you are looking for at this cost.  I am not saying you have to pay $10,000 a month for this type of service, but there is a lot involved when managing your e-commerce if you want it executed correctly.)

Strategy is often overlooked when building your Online Reputation.  There are several steps you will want to take to make it easy for you to manage your reputation.  A house will not stand if you do not have a strong foundation.  The same goes for your Online Reputation.


 •Make sure your dealership message is consistent across the interest. We have found in some markets Yahoo is more effect than Google. And don’t ever count Bill Gates out. Bing powers a lot of the Social Media Searches along with the Automotive Mobile Navigation Systems.
•Focus on a sound sales process. A positive customer experience not only helps with positive reviews, but it will increase your gross.
•Do not just focus on Google+. Google produced over 80 million yes million errors when they converted over. They are in a world of hurt over it and have heard that dealers are talking about a class action lawsuit. You must focus your efforts across the board. Ever heard of “don’t put all of your chickens in one basket?” 
•Keep everything the dealership does transparent. If you hide something that means you are up to no good and in this day and age you will get caught. And getting caught will do more damage than a bad review.  Do you remember the Dealers that made 20/20 in the early 2000s?  That was just ugly!
•DO NOT – again – DO NOT forget about Yelp. Yelp has had a few problems and there have been some allegations of extortion by both the company and yelpers themselves. But Yelp is a player and isn’t going away. It’s almost like a cult.  If it hasn’t hit your market yet it will.
•Provide an avenue for your customers to review your business the right way.  Read below for information on how to get reviews the right way.
•Develop strong Customer Loyalty.  I will talk more about this later in the article.
•Utilize Web 2.0 to allow all of your sites to communicate your story to the world.


Acquiring Google+ Reviews and Having them Stick!

If you have knowledge of how Google works then that makes you the Billion Dollar Man or Women. The Google Secrets are guarded better than Fort Knox.  If you are not able to crack the Google Code then how could anyone offer advice to car dealers or any business on how to get all of the reviews to stick? The fact of the matter is only the chosen few know exactly how any of it works and I would bet not one person knows it all.

Let’s address the IP Myth. Think about this; take any given company for example Texas Instruments. Do you really thing Google will block or identify Texas Instrument’s internet gateway (the point where TI accesses the internet), please… that would impede 25000 plus users from using their products and services.

I believe that it is based on usage of the account. If the account is active and a Google+ has been created then the reviews will stick no matter the content. Why you might ask? Because it’s a real person, it doesn’t matter where the review is generated in my opinion; it matters on how Google+ is used.

There is nothing wrong with offering the client a choice to give an honest review while in the dealership. Again the keyword here is “OFFERING”.  However, don’t stop with just Google. Offer a whole host of sites for the client to post a review or even better allow the client an area to write the management/owner a personal note about their experience. A personal note a lot of the time has a bigger impact on store processes.  For example, we have a program that allows consumers to post good and bad reviews before they leave the dealership.  This allows dealers to address issues and identify the good and bad before the customer takes their business elsewhere.


Are Reviews about playing “Gotcha” or are they designed to INCREASE CONSUMER SATISFACTION?  I believe Google, Yahoo, Yelp, and other sites were created to ultimately provide the latter.  As with everything, there are businesses that practice unethical behavior which affect us all.  In most cases, if you are using a good vendor or doing all of these things yourself correctly, then your business will not be punished.  If you are not doing it right then you deserve what you get.


Avoid using services that offer to create Google+ Local reviews based on customer survey data, online forms, or personal customer correspondence.  With all of the legislation that has been implemented opens the dealer up to a huge liability factor.  Check out the FTP site to see possible fines that can occur if caught. Many of the reviews will not stick especially in Google+, but there are a lot of vendors that still practice this. Many of these companies claim to have IP jumpers, MAC Address changers or even proxy server access. Believe me that’s 100% wrong.   It doesn’t work for long.  How do I know?   Because I had the opportunity to partner with several companies that would collect and post reviews this way.  It did not look, feel or smell right so my business partner and I developed a program to help dealerships and other companies to build their Online Reputation the Right Way.  “If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck…it must be a duck.” in the … (BTW: a lot of posting are made at coffee houses by these types of companies).

Do not assist or encourage customers in creating a Google account to post a favorable review on your Google+ Local business page.  If you encourage or assist a client on any matter which can be considered an endorsement and not disclaim it is highly illegal and the fine can be in upwards of $250,000 for a first time offense.

There is nothing wrong with ask them to jot down a few words on how there car buying or service experience was. A lot can be learned from this action which can hugely benefit the dealership, client experience, and ultimately Consumer Satisfaction.

Carl Sewell once told me, “If you take what your clients have to say to heart guess what Profits will increase!”  Carl Sewell obviously wrote the best seller, Customers for Life.

Inspect your Google+ Local business page to monitor the reviews that are being posted.  Make sure that all of your business information is correct on a weekly basis.  Many dealerships either do not have time, or become very depressed when they do look at their pages.  Don’t be an ostrich and stick your head in the ground!  Your issues will not go away without doing something about them. 


If you are Marketer provide this service for your clients coach them on how to address the client in a public forum.  Every business make mistakes, but taking the easy way out and ignoring the post is ludicrous. We are a forgiving society, and consumers are human.  We want to do business with “real companies that care”.

If you do not maintain your local pages (notice pages) you are loosing out on market share. There 100’s of local networks and you never know which one people will use. You must make sure your message is consistent on each site.

Marketers this is a new opportunity to provide a much needed service the automotive dealer. 

The only thing you can or should do is ask the client for a review good or bad with no strings attached.  You just might find a hole in the sales process that can be fix which will provide the client with a better experience. When you make small adjustments to the sales process improving the client experience profits increase!

Bottom line, Google+ is the new thing on the block and everyone is worried about how to use it.  Remember Google created millions of errors during the transformation and minimal Google users (people that use Google for Gmail only) will not convert over to Google+ to write a review. Most users have spent years developing their Facebook network and don’t really want to move over and start anew.

True, Google is the 800 pound gorilla, but don’t get caught up in all the hype.  Apply sound digital marketing practices and you’ll be fine, or as my grandmother told me “Watch your Ps and Qs”.  Google has huge issues right now and it is going to take them a very long time to sort them out.  If you were one of the Dealerships that feel Google removed legitimate reviews with out your consent email us and we can send you information on how to start legal actions in addressing this issue.  Email us at sales@DeliveryMaxx.com and put Need Help with Legitimate Reviews in the subject line.  We will have one of our technology specialists help navigate the proceedings.  If your Online Reputation Management needs help and this is a service that you would like us to give you a comprehensive overview then put Automotive Digital Marketing Done Right in the subject line.


Creating Customer Loyalty is the easiest way to get positive reviews and build your Online Reputation!

If you have read this far, then you are serious about your business.  I commend you, and you are probably a partner in the dealership or one day you will be.

Business really is simple.  A good product, fair price, and outstanding customer service separate your company from the competition.  The customer wants to spend their money where they feel valued.

If you are putting the customer in the vehicle that is right for them at the price that is right then you will have a satisfied customer.  However, if you thank them for their business, and welcome them into your family they will become your customer for life.


So how do you do this 100% of the time?  It starts with you.  Set an example throughout the dealership and identify your expectations.

•You have to have a Customer Friendly Culture
•Develop processes to communicate with your customers where they are.  We know that 80% of your customers are on the web, but what about the other 20%?  Combined an electronic follow-up as well as traditional follow-up system.
•Consistently follow-up with your customers during happy times such as birthdays, holidays, and annually after the delivery of the vehicle.  Let the customer know you still care about them long after they have left the dealership.
•If you have a Service Department, create ways of getting your customer back into your dealership to experience your customer service.
Inspect what you expect.
•When you make a mistake (and you will), do your best to make it right.

Doing all of these things is not as easy as turning on a light switch.  If it were, then we would not have competition.  Since it takes a strong strategy, hard work, and great ethics you have the opportunity to stand tall above the rest of the world.  By doing all of these things our network of dealerships have experienced key results:

•Published Online Reviews


•Web Domination through all of the Social Media Sites
•Increase in Sales both Repeat and Referral Business
•Additional Revenue in Fixed Operations
•Strong CSI Scores
•Greater Employee Retention
•Customer Loyalty and Retention

Good luck selling and we look forward to seeing you at the top! 

Bryan Armstrong
Great post! This is one area you shouldn't "fake it till you make it". Go all in and respond to both the positive and negative. Showing you're actually listening and care about feedback, the more positive reviews become.
Jim Bell
Great post, but where Google failed is that you have to have a G+ acct in order to do a review. The last thing that people want is another 'social network.' Don't get me wrong, I am all about reviews and see the importance of them, but you can't force someone onto another platform. I will just keep on asking and I am glad we didn't have all of my eggs in one basket when the change took place a few months ago.

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