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Jeff Kershner

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May 1, 2005
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How COVID-19 and changes in Google rankings of businesses are increasing the importance of reputation management. With the help of Widewail CEO, Matt Murray, Wards Auto explores COVID-19, Google’s local ranking criteria, and the increasing importance of reputation management.

In June, Moz released its annual survey of local business marketers. The surveyed marketers generally agree that Google My Business information and Google Reviews are the two most important search ranking factors today. This represents a new normal, placing less importance on the searcher’s proximity from the store.

“This is probably down to marketers trying to influence things they can control,” says Miriam Ellis, a Moz search marketer. “A business location is out of their hands, but GMB and Google reviews are core to local SEO.”

As dealership marketers, it is our responsibility to develop a strategy to proactively promote our businesses within Google, and review management is coming to the forefront as a popular strategic approach. And even better, Google is rewarding this technique.

“What the Moz survey tells me is that Google isn’t just focusing on the closest businesses,” says David Telfer, National Manager of Digital & Social Media at Lexus. “They know they have to send users to a good business.”

But how is a business determined to be “good”? This is where Google leans heavily on its broad user-generated-content engine: reviews.

“What do customers say about your business? Does it respond to customers? How does the business handle negative reviews? Those things are directly factoring into that store's position in Google search,” says Matt Murray, Widewail CEO.

These elements are at the center of reputation management, more so today due to the pandemic, but most dealerships lack the staff to respond to every review or comment across a wide variety of review and social media sites.

Founded in 2018, Widewail monitors online reviews and responds on behalf of dealerships. An early proponent of review response management, Murray has already formed partnerships with Lexus, BMW, and Mini, brands happy to find an economical online reputation management solution.

In today’s market, Moz has deemed responding to reviews “essential”, noting 27% of customers searching for a local business are intent on reading reviews. Specifically Google reviews, that is, with 70% of all dealer reviews found on the platform.

Although there are many shoppers on other sites (DealerRater, CarGurus, Cars.com) and we don’t recommend you ignore any of them, Murray adds.

“We’re now selling the experience as much as we’re selling the car,” says Jake Barron, Digital Marketing Manager at Koons Automotive, which operates 19 dealerships across Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. “A Corolla is a Corolla, but when your safety is on the line, people will do more qualitative digging into where they’re going to buy that Corolla.”

A Widewail customer since 2018, Barron calls the relationship “a huge operational lift”. And proactive management is key, given just one of Koon’s stores receives 150,000 GMB impressions a month.

You can read the full article, “Car Dealers Dig Into Taking Digital Reviews Seriously,” on Wards Auto.