Man in white dress shirt sitting at desk looking at laptop screen

In a digital world where everyone discusses everything online, it’s no surprise that shoppers are looking for other people’s opinions about your business.

This so-called “digital word of mouth” isn’t just some stranger’s sentiments or past purchaser’s random ramblings, it’s incredibly influential. A shopper writes a review for potentially millions of people to read, rely on and make decisions about who you are, what you offer and why they should or shouldn’t support your business.

Digital word of mouth is so powerful that 98% of consumers consider online reviews an essential part of their buying decisions, according to PowerReviews. Your dealership’s online reputation directly influences how potential customers perceive your business and can significantly impact their decision to click on your website.

This article will give you insight into your own brand reputation and how shoppers perceive your dealership online. It will cover the following topics:

  • Importance of Your Online Brand Reputation
  • Impact of Brand Reputation on Search Engine Rankings
  • Impact of Brand Reputation on Conversion Rates
  • Best Practices to Maintain an Active & Positive Brand Reputation
  • Take Charge of Your Reputation


Importance of Your Online Brand Reputation

Google is your dealership’s digital storefront. It offers shoppers the single largest source of online reviews, followed by Facebook. If a dealership ranks highly in local searches, their online brand will be immediately visible to potential shoppers. The Google Business Profile of the most popular local dealership typically appears right alongside organic searches.

You might think of Google as the front door to your online dealership. If consumers like what they see, they’ll feel comfortable coming inside and seeing what your website has to offer. Your star rating on Google, as well as the number of your reviews, are visible to anyone looking at your Google Business Profile. Your dealership’s online reputation starts (and possibly ends) here.

Your online reputation influences consumers’ trust in your dealership. Shoppers see the number and recency of reviews as a reflection of your dealership’s brand value and customer service. A poor brand reputation isn’t just a result of negative reviews. It encompasses several factors, including an overall lack of information about your dealership, very old reviews or no reviews at all, no social presence or even missing contact information.


Impact of Brand Reputation on Search Engine Rankings

Organic clicks are a leading indicator of website traffic quality, because these visitors are already searching for relevant inventory and services in your area. If your business has a good reputation online, it can drive more quality leads to your website. Of course, the opposite is also true. If your business has a bad online reputation, you’re likely missing out on quality leads.

If you’re seeing a low level of organic traffic, your online presence might be negatively impacted by your brand reputation. Search engines like Google take brand reputation into account when determining search rankings. Brand reputation not only affects local organic search results, it also impacts your business’ Google Maps ranking. Businesses with a higher volume of positive reviews are featured in the coveted Map Pack at the top of organic search results.

Negative online sentiment, such as unfavorable reviews and low engagement, can lead to lower rankings in search results. As a result, your dealership may appear lower on the search engine results page, resulting in reduced visibility and fewer clicks. This means your website is being missed by qualified leads who are likely visiting your competitors’ web pages.


Impact of Brand Reputation on Conversion Rates

Your online reputation plays a major role in whether qualified leads choose your site. More than half (53%) of all website traffic is generated by organic search alone. Being featured in the Google Map Pack encourages even more website clicks. In fact, Map Pack listings receive up to 70% of organic search traffic, according to Search Engine Journal. The Map Pack provides users with a quick, convenient way to find a dealership near them. This convenience is a significant factor in decision-making, and being easily accessible on the map can influence users to choose your dealership.

Even if qualified shoppers find your website in organic search results, if they see you have poor reviews or just a few reviews, they may skip your site entirely. Having just 1 to 10 reviews can increase conversion rate by as much as 52.2%. Keep in mind that your review performance is also relative to your competitors. If you have 15 reviews and the dealer down the street has 100-plus reviews, shoppers will likely go for the competitor.

Poor reputation can also impact your conversion rates. In an era where scams and fraudulent businesses are prevalent, consumers are cautious about where they invest their time and money. Negative reviews, unresolved complaints or a lack of information about your dealership can lead to suspicion and hesitation, deterring potential customers from clicking on your website.

It’s also important to remember that in this digital era, word of mouth travels faster than ever. Negative experiences shared on social media, review platforms or forums can reach a wide audience, potentially dissuading many potential customers from clicking on your website.


Best Practices to Maintain an Active & Positive Online Reputation

It’s clear that reviews and online reputation can significantly impact your business, but how do you establish a good brand reputation or improve shoppers’ existing perceptions? Follow these best practices to generate positive digital word of mouth and drive more qualified leads to your site.


Engage with Reviews in a Timely Manner

With so many options and so much information online, today’s consumers are understandably less patient. When they reach out to a business, they expect a fast response. This principle holds true for your online reviews. More than half (53.3%) of consumers expect a response from the business within 7 days of leaving a review. More importantly, 88% of consumers are more likely to choose a business that responds to all reviews, positive and negative.

Responding to reviews shows that you’re engaged with your business, that you’re active online and that you want to connect with shoppers. While responding to every review might seem overwhelming, busy dealers can outsource this responsibility to a marketing agency. Good agencies will respond to every review and report escalated reviews back to the dealer, so they have peace of mind that the agency is handling it.

If you’re an ARI dealer using our Reputation Management console, you can use a single interface to manage online reviews from multiple channels – or enlist automation to handle these processes for you. Click here to explore the four features of Reputation Management.


Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

A dealership’s volume of reviews can impact reputation, but so can review recency. Recent positive reviews show that the dealer has lots of customers, and those customers are happy with their experience. It also signals to search engines that your dealership is trustworthy, which can increase your organic search ranking and even help your dealership achieve a position in the Google Map Pack. Integrating reviews with your DMS makes it easy to automatically send review requests to recent buyers.


Focus on Highly Trafficked Review Sites

There’s a reason Google reviews are so important. Don’t let a vendor convince you to have shoppers leave reviews on a reviews site built and hosted by the vendor. This so-called review service serves one party and one party only—the vendor. Shoppers aren’t going to visit a vendor’s site to look for reviews, which means your business won’t benefit from using that service. Shoppers are browsing and leaving reviews on Google and Facebook, and this is where your reviews need to live.


Prioritize Content and Audience Engagement

Reviews aren’t the only aspect of reputation management. The right website content can help you build relationships with your customers and establish authority in your industry. Consistently publish valuable content, including blog posts, videos and customer success stories to increase user engagement and encourage shares and likes. These positive signals can help improve your search engine rankings and increase website clicks.


Build Trust through Transparency

Transparency is key to building trust with your audience. When customers trust you, your reputation improves, and your reviews reflect this relationship. Be honest and forthcoming about your products, services, and business practices. Treat customers the way you want to be treated. That includes clearly communicating pricing, warranties and any other important information to potential customers. When you do right by the customers, reviews (and your reputation) will do right by you.


Two pairs of women's hands holding mobile phonesBoost Word of Mouth Referrals

Whether it’s digital word-of-mouth or good old-fashioned person-to-person communication, a referral from a happy customer can go a long way in improving your reputation and growing your business. Go above and beyond to provide excellent customer experiences. Address any issues promptly and ensure that every customer interaction is positive. Happy customers are more likely to refer your dealership to others, leading to increased website clicks through positive word-of-mouth.


Take Charge of Your Reputation

 Your dealership’s reputation precedes you. It precedes your website on Google and other search engines, it precedes customers coming to your dealership, and it precedes steady business growth and success. While a poor online brand reputation can significantly impact your dealership’s website clicks and overall online performance, a good reputation can influence countless customers online and boost your business.


By actively managing your reputation, prioritizing content and engagement, optimizing your online advertisements and delighting your customers, you can enhance your digital presence and attract more potential customers to click on your website. Remember, building a positive online brand reputation takes time and consistent effort, but the rewards in increased website traffic and customer trust are well worth the work.