The recent Small Business Search Marketing Survey by American Express OPEN touched upon how users search for local businesses, as well as the rising popularity in consumer review sites and how these affect a company's reputation.
For instance, while word-of-mouth was the most popular source of finding out small business information (82 percent), the internet was not far behind at 66 percent. More traditional forms, such as advertising (37 percent), the Yellow Pages (23 percent), newspapers and magazines (23 percent) and actual storefront (17 percent), were found to be far less prominent.
This corresponds with the minority of respondents (15 percent) who stated that they didn't use the internet to find local business information over the past 12 months. Given the rise of local search apps like foursquare and the ease of finding a business' address, phone number and other pertinent information through a simple Google search, it's no surprise that more people are turning to the internet for insight. Indeed, 25 percent of those polled said they search the internet for local business information two to five times per week. Eight percent said they do so "almost every day."
If users aren't searching for a business' physical address or phone number, they're using consumer review sites to determine if they should visit or contact the company in the first place. Specifically, 27 percent said they regularly use review sites such as Yelp to determine whether a business is worthy of their time and money, while 49 percent said they use the outlets occasionally.
"Many businesses get caught up in the frenzy over social media such as Twitter and Facebook, while neglecting review and answer sites," explains Inc. magazine. "Comprehensive surveillance of review sites could save you the cost of consultants and focus groups, and allow you to interact directly with customers to manage and monitor your company's reputation."
It's important to note that 58 percent of respondents said a positive customer review increases their trust in a business. This emphasizes the fact that companies need to monitor their review pages for negative or malicious statements, and try to resolve them either on the site itself or via email. A mere 17 percent of those polled didn't take notice of online customer review pages.