LOS ANGELES – Search engine Google can perform search and destroy, at least when it comes to its treatment of car dealers getting bad reviews from consumers.
That’s because Google’s search-result listings of auto retailers – which come first, which get buried – are based, in part, on the quality of those reviews.
Accordingly, the power of Google can devastate. Dealers who get panned enough times find themselves in the digital equivalent of no-man’s land by appearing deep down on the search results. Showing up on page six or seven of a consumer search result is nearly tantamount to not showing up at all.
“Google is determining winners and losers, with the winners getting the most 4- and 5-star reviews,” says Ali Fawaz, director-social media at Ford Direct, a digital marketer for Ford dealers.
“If you get bad reviews, there’s no better way to drive customers to the competition,” he says at the 2017 Automotive Customer Experience Summit here.
Many online car shoppers selectively look at dealership reviews, he says. “They want to see reviews that get lots of stars. Nothing matters if it’s one or two stars.”
The awesome influence of social-media reviews is demonstrated in the fact that since Facebook began running them 18 months ago, “there has been unbelievable participation,” Fawaz says.
He discusses the differences between “the two big kids on the block,” Facebook and Google.
“People on Google are looking for something quickly. Boom, it’s fast. Facebook is more leisurely. People are reading things. Facebook knows you. Google needs you to tell it what you want. Facebook knows much of what you want. Google is more transactional.”
He offers dealers these reputation-management tips relating to reviews on Google, Facebook or any other social-media website:
- Monitor and respond to customer reviews within 48 hours.
- Check reputation scores monthly.
- Respond authentically. “Don’t cut and paste.”
- Solicit customer reviews and thank people for good ones.
- Assign someone at the dealership to handle the reputation management associated with reviews. “If you can’t do it at the dealership, hire it out.”