How to Win More Positive Reviews: Reputation Management for Apartments w/ Art Gonzales, Reputation Manager at Apartment SEO

Speaker: Ronn and Martin

Guest: Art Gonzalez:

Martin: All right. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the multifamily podcast with Ronn and Martin. In today’s episode, we will be talking about why your community’s online reputation matters more than ever and how you can win more positive reviews. Today we will be speaking with apartment SEOs, reputation manager, Art Gonzalez, who has been with apartment SEO for over six plus years now. Art really helped shape the reputation department into the well-oiled machine it is today, he continues to drive the department to new heights, by bringing new strategies and ideas to keep our client’s reputation in the best light possible. Art Gonzalez, welcome to the multifamily podcast.

Art Gonzalez: Hello, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Ronn: Great. Well, I’m so excited Art as well, thank you so much for agreeing to this. When Martin and I wanted to do the podcast, we said we have such amazing subject matter experts behind the scenes, that our clients and prospects and just our overall multifamily podcast audience don’t get to hear from. So, I’m super excited because you have been with us for six plus of the 10 years at apartment of SEO. And for those that don’t know, obviously our namesake apartment SEO, we started in the search world. But we quickly realized how important reviews are to ranking. And so, we quickly went into reputation management. We’re so excited about that and art has definitely led the charge. He’s ran a group of teams throughout the years and just continues to be innovative as well. So, I can’t say enough about Art. Welcome to the show. Can’t wait for everybody here. To start us off, I wanted to ask a couple of some questions. So, keeping your committee’s reputation at a five-star level is obviously easier said than done. fact I don’t know if you want to be five stars. But it’s more common for people with negative reviews to post them. We all know that right? Versus a positive experience. You don’t like stop what you’re doing and say let me go post about this. It’s only when we’re burned. So, what is the best way to respond to a negative community review for our audience?

Art Gonzalez: Yeah, I mean, you’re absolutely right, Ronn. There are several guidelines or practices a business should know when responding to a negative review. The first thing is don’t take the review personally. The first thing I know when I’m reading reviews, I’m on Digg, but it is unfortunately, their experience and their experience through reality. I know receiving a negative review isn’t fun. However, you can use the feedback to gain insight what’s happening at the community and take actions on those feedbacks that you do receive. Overall star ratings matter. But what is more important is how you address the review. Responding to reviews online by acknowledging the issue and apologizing, even if you don’t feel that you’re at fault or the residents telling the truth. It’s also important because potential residents will be reading your response and no matter what the complaint is, reviewers want to feel heard. And potential renters want to see empathy from the business. So, we suggest keep your response professional, take out the emotion, stick to the topic in the review and provide an explanation if necessary. If reviews mentioned multiple topics, sometimes you know our reviews that come in, they’re very lengthy, their paragraphs, you don’t have to touch on every single topic, pick the topics that you feel impacted your business the most and just focus on those. We always want to thank them for the feedback and invite them to speak with a leasing office that just extends a hand. The goal is to take the review offline so you can dress the concerns to the best of your ability.

Martin: Yeah, making sure you just take the action that you need to do and make sure that the problem was resolved. And then hopefully, you know get them to make some updates to that negative review.

Ronn: I like that, where you don’t have to address like everything. That’s good tidbit.

Martin: So, are we know there are times when communities get a review that looks like spam, maybe competitors posting fake reviews, or just downright vulgar ones. How can communities get these reviews removed from reputation platforms? What are some good first steps if they can even get them taken down?

Art Gonzalez: Yeah, the colorful or vulgar or the vulgar or color for reviews as my team and I call them are interesting. It’s like breakout the popcorn. Dealing with these types of reviews can be challenging. If you do determine a review is fake from a competitor or just vulgar, select the review for removal. Each review site has their own set of guidelines, and it does take several days for them to investigate. When a review is flagged, it does remain on the review site. So, it’s always a good idea to post the response. Posting response doesn’t mean you agreed with the review and it has no impact on the removal process. It’s just more of like an insurance policy, just in case the review site doesn’t take the review down. Posting response does not mean you, like I said does not agree they, does not mean you agree with the review and has no impact on the removal process, even a short response such as, thank you for the information, our team will look into this and if it’s authentic, we’ll take appropriate actions. Those work just great. I always promote honest and professional business responses for these types of reviews, flagging them and posting short responses always best.

Martin: Okay, that makes sense.

Ronn: That’s awesome. I like that you could just keep it short and simple, right? But how about what, like a genuine negative review? Like, obviously, we have to decipher or you getting to decipher the difference? What are some steps our audience can take to get it removed? I know you’re successful at that, or updated with a better star rating?

Art Gonzalez: Yeah. Over the years, you know, as you mentioned, I started in 2016. And back then, when we were flagging reviews, it was really easy for us to get reviews removed, taken down. But over the years, Google, Yelp, Facebook, they’re all realizing the importance of reviews, and real and businesses are relying on those. So, it’s very challenging to get reviews removed by going through the flagging process per reputation site, you’ll always want to flag the review, of course, through the reputation site, however, it’s easier to get reviews removed or edited to a higher star rating by reaching out to the reviewer. This stuff goes a long way. Because when you do this, you open up the lines of communication, you start and you start building trust. If you address the concerns mentioned in the review and know the reviewers happy, ask them to edit the review by saying something like, we would mind, would you mind updating your review to reflect your most recent experience? Oftentimes, the reviewer will update the review to a higher star rating and our ticket down altogether. You just have to remind them. That is my opinion, the easiest and most successful way of getting reviews taken down, besides flagging them from the review platform itself.

Ronn: But that’s because you could actually, like you said that offline, or the audience is looking passively, they could see that there was like resolved, right? 

Art Gonzalez: Absolutely. Yeah, that is the most important thing. I think, in terms of reputation, not so much the star rating, or what the complaint was said is the response. That’s what people are looking at. What did the business do with this person’s complaint?

Martin: You have to really take these negative reviews head on, right, and you got to learn from them and you know, do a better job of whatever you’re doing at the community as well. So, I think it’s a learning experience as well. And if you get the updated review, that’s even more of a plus. 

Art Gonzalez: Right. Absolutely. 

Martin: So, when a community gets a five-star rating on any reputation platform, what best practices are there for responding to these positive reviews? Obviously, you don’t want to just leave a short little thank you. What are some things our communities could do?

Art Gonzalez: Right, we have positive reviews or compliments. So, make sure you’re thanking the reviewer for taking the time to share that positive comment or compliment. Everyone’s looking, so it reiterates or highlight some of the reviewer’s positive comments in your response. So, if they’re mentioning that they received amazing customer service from one of your team members, mentioned that. You want to reiterate and highlight anything that they said, and thank them for taking the time to leave a review and for the comments. It’s also a good idea to let them know that if something changes in their overall experience or issues do arise to contact the business, so you can keep their experience a positive one. That goes a long way as well.

Ronn: Yeah, so let’s switch gears a little bit about GBP or Google business profile. Obviously, we know reviews have the impact that the GDP reviews have on communities SEO and in Google Maps. Do you see a strong correlation with positive reviews and a higher local map rankings for apartment communities? I know this is a big SEO question too.

Art Gonzalez: Right. Yeah, Google reviews have a huge impact in SEO placement. So as of right now, there the fifth most significant parameter that determines SEO ranking. Google looks at the quantity, quality, frequency and residency. I don’t know if it’s the word, online reviews. This ultimately means businesses that consistently have higher amounts of reviews with higher star ratings are more likely to get ranked on Google. However, even the negative reviews play a part and Google rewards businesses for responding to all reviews. So yes, of course, it’s you, want most star ratings, the highest ratings possible, but as long as you’re responding to the reviews, you are going to get place, you might not get placed higher because of a negative content, but they will reward you regardless.

Martin: I mean, that’s the thing with the review responses or the reviews overall, whether they’re negative or positive. You know, when people are searching on Google Maps, those snippets highlighted from the review could be showcase. So obviously, you don’t want to be shown for bedbugs. No one’s really gonna be searching bedbug apartments in city state but you know, you want those really high ends, you know, luxury pet park, whenever those words are mentioned in the review is going to probably have a heavier impact. But same thing goes for the negative and that could you know, make somebody not want to lease with you in that case. So Bright Local released an alert recently, you shared with us about a Google review bug, talking about Google reviews disappearing, do you have any more information about this bug and was it fixed and updated?

Art Gonzalez: A few months ago, there was a Google Business Profile update and a lot of businesses started to report their Google reviews went missing. So, each business has an cID, which is an identifier Google uses to tie all relevant information to a business, including reviews, the CID is usually only changed when two listings are merged or listing was suspended by Google and then reinstated. So, the bug was when a lot of businesses did their update, the disinformation did not transfer over, resulting in disappearing reviews, our team looked into the issue. And we’re happy to report that we did not see any of our clients affected by this, which is awesome. Google has been made aware of the bug and has been actively reaching, restoring it and restoring business affected with it. So, they are aware of it, they are putting the roots of us back on businesses pages. If this did happen to you, what you can do is reach out to Google support and submit a form it’s going, they’re going to ask you your business name, few more information. And they will start to reinstate your Google reviews, you can do this through your own Google business account.

Ronn: And it was that both positive and negative reviews that were gone missing.

Ronn: Wow. So, is it, can you ask Google? Can you just put up, restore the positive. 

Art Gonzalez: That would be ideal. 

Ronn: Three and a half stars and above please. I’ll be like, I’ll take the liberty of like, pulling them up for you. That’s awesome. So, I know, this is the golden age question, on the frontline when we’re selling and talking with management companies about reputation management. This is the golden question, which is how can communities and management companies earn more positive reviews overall? And for the audience, can you share some advice based on your years of experience and seeing what really does work?

Art Gonzalez: Yes, give me a five-star, customer service earns five-star reviews, it’s that simple. It really is. You know, however, there are other businesses, there are things that other business or business can do to get more positive reviews, or make it easier, I think that is the key to make it easy for people to leave reviews for business. For example, create a digital marketing card with QR codes for easy access, or creating a review kiosk in high traffic areas in the community. I know most communities have like a coffee station, I mean, that in my opinion, would be the best way to get a review. I mean, who would not want to leave a review, after going into the office, getting their free morning coffee. I mean, right there. It’s like, hey, I think this review, why drinking your coffee, things like that. Creating an email signature with a link to sites of your choice also helps when interacting with people through email. You can also have internal contests, but it’s important to mention to never incentivize leaving reviews for anyone, and to also give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback. That is really important. There are guidelines that FTC wants each business to abide by. So that’s really important. Just do not incentivize your residents’ leaving reviews. I mean, you can do internal contests, like per community, like who gets the most reviews that, you can do like a pizza party, that is okay. But when you’re incentivizing the people to actually leave reviews for your business, that’s what’s not okay.

Ronn: And that’s so commonplace in a lot of business industries, right? Like a hair salon or, you know.

Art Gonzalez: Definitely, definitely, yeah, even myself, I’m a consumer and I, every time I go out, or I’m doing something, I’m actually asked, hey, leave a review, we’ll give you $10 off this, I’m like, okay. That’s what you want to do.

Martin: Do you think it’s okay for our communities to be asking for reviews after say, like a maintenance request?

Art Gonzalez: Yes, absolutely. Asking for reviews is the easiest and fastest way to get reviews, after maintenance requests, moving in moving out. All those are good ways to get reviews.

Martin: Yeah, so many opportunities, they just gotta be front and center ready to go and be have some kind of technology in place to be able to bring up that Google business profile and have them post that review. And yeah, see their rankings increase and get a little better, you know, overall.

Ronn: I mean, you have to ask, I know that we say that often, or maybe not enough, but too often, right? Just ask and those are great creative ways of asking, you know.

Martin: And you shall receive. So, we have communities that go through some bad news from time to time, this could be a crime taking place in the community, or some just other PR nightmare, which tons of things have happened. But why does Google show their negative article in the search results for community’s brand name? How long could it be there and can it be removed?

Art Gonzalez: Yes, Google wants to show its reviewers any information that They feel as relevant to a business whether it be good or bad. Google feels when articles are written about a business, it’s important to have that information readily available. So, readers can make their choice whether to do business with that particular company or not. This is the game of on their reputation and why it’s important to have a solid strategy. Content is rarely removed, it can only be pushed down or hidden as more content for the business becomes available online. This is part of the online reputation management strategy where we focused on getting more content, preferably positive content. But in this specific case, any reviews or any content will help push that negative content of our article down. Over time it will be pushed so far down that the page becomes irrelevant. That’s really the only thing we can do. When it comes to like articles of that review is taken down, yeah, they will come down. But when it has a PR issue attached to it, it’s a little bit more challenging, and oftentimes, they just remain there until it’s not relevant anymore.

Martin: Yes. That’s a very common question.

Ronn: Yeah, totally. Now, another common question is, and I love this topic, because it’s a little shameless plug in, you know, at the end of this, you’ll hear Martin say, hey, for your free online market analysis, reach out to apartment SEO. But what most people don’t know is that we also offer another report card. So, we obviously know there are some communities or management companies who want to know where their community stand online, especially like senior management people, right, like senior team members marketing, the community level people, they probably know where they stand, and they probably, it’s probably their bone of their contention, like, you know, we got to fight that. But can you share more about our fabulous reputation report card, and how they can get their free report from us?

Art Gonzalez: Absolutely. We designed a reputation report card, which is essentially a snapshot of a business’s overall reputation score, which consists of average star rating, review volume, response rate and even response time. So, you can visit apartment and click on reputation builder, scroll down to the bottom and submit any business information for a free repetition report card. So happens our system will process the information and one of our team members will reach out to discuss the report. This is a great way to find out the overall reputation health of your business and how you can partner with apartment SEO to turn your reviews and your revenue.

Martin: It’s always a pleasure to hang in chatted up with you. It was even great catching up right before the call and learning more you know about what you got going on in life. Thank you for your service with department SEO and keeping the positive momentum going for all of our communities we serve here. You know, give some love to your Boston Terrier as well, Lola, you know, we all love her.

Art Gonzalez: Yeah, absolutely.

Ronn: I can’t believe we’re done. We have way more questions. We have so much more we need to know from a Art.

Martin: We have to have another segment.

Art Gonzalez: Talking about reviews and reputation all day long. So much.

Ronn: Probably in fact, we can even get into a whole another topic. And maybe we should for like employers like Glassdoor reviews and stuff like that, because I know that you helped us with those already. And obviously we get our share of fun ones. We’re like wait, what? So no, it’s honestly a pleasure. Thank you so much for jumping on with us again. I think there’s so much more to this topic. For those in the audience, please always reach out to Martin and I, let us know what you guys want to hear. You know, we can do a Q&A on this Q&A on this. This is an amazing topic and we heard the importance of it all. And five-star, service five-star reviews. What? That was the mic drop right there.

Art Gonzalez: Yes, absolutely. 

Ronn: Thanks, Art. 

Art Gonzalex: No, thank you.

Martin: Alright, so remember everyone, you can subscribe to the multifamily podcast at multifamily also get your free marketing analysis and reputation report card, that will be the new standard way to get out of here at apartment Head over to the reputation tab like Art said, scroll down to the bottom and submit your details for the free report card today. Until next time, bye everyone.

Ronn: Bye. Happy holidays.