Why a Great Automotive Reputation Means More than 5-Star Ratings and Reviews

Ali Fawaz
Ali Fawaz , General Manager, Worldwide Automotive

Five-star customer ratings and reviews are essential to an automotive dealership’s reputation. But they don’t paint a complete picture of your reputation. Dealerships also need to carefully manage search impressions and listing accuracy as part of a comprehensive approach to reputation management. If customers can’t find you, all that work you put into managing ratings and reviews goes to waste.

Moreover, accumulating 5-star online ratings and great reviews aren’t enough — dealerships must also pay attention review volume, length and recency, as these factors weigh heavily into how businesses are ranked in search results.

Reputation Score — A 360-Degree View of Brand Performance

At Reputation.com, we created a metric known as the Reputation Score to help businesses across many industries, including automotive retail, understand the strength of their reputation, as well as areas for improvement. Lately, more and more dealerships are asking us about the Reputation Score and how they can improve it. That’s because businesses that improve their Reputation Scores see improvements in key metrics — in particular, sales growth.

Here are some of the many factors used to calculate Reputation Score:

  • Search Impressions: This metric looks at how visible your business is when customers search for your locations on Google or other search engines. The higher your business or location appears in the search results, the easier it will be for consumers to find you. This is why sharing deep, timely content about your dealership — such as images of happy auto customers and up-to-date inventory — is important to reputation management, along with a thoughtful approach to paid search.
  • Listing Accuracy: Listing accuracy means managing location data such as your phone number, hours of operation and address. For many dealerships, managing listings on destinations such as Google My Business (GMB) is a necessary evil. To build your reputation, though, you need to think of listings as crucial assets. The latest Moz Local Search Ranking Factors report says that the importance of your Google My Business (GMB) page as a ranking signal increased 32% year over year. In fact, your GMB page is now the largest local ranking factor. The value of your GMB page alone should be enough to make you want to manage your listings data. Data accuracy also creates a good first impression to people searching for a dealership.
  • Review Volume: The quantity of reviews (both positive and negative) is also crucial. Google looks at review volume as a big factor in ranking your dealership in local search. A dealership reviewed by only a handful of customers has less credibility in Google’s eyes when Google returns results for a customer’s search for nearby dealerships.
  • Review Recency: Recently published reviews show that your dealership is actively engaging with customers. Newer reviews also help drive up search rankings for locations. Review recency not only influences your rankings in general search results, it boosts where you appear in the Google local 3-pack.
  • Review Length: The length of your reviews indicates how invested your customers are in your business, because it is a measure of how much time they were willing to spend giving feedback. Longer and more detailed reviews are better for your Reputation Score — even if sometimes that review contains suggestions for improvement. Review length affects how and where your business appears, both in general search and in the Google 3-pack.
  • Star Ratings: A dealership with higher average star ratings is going to have an advantage over those with lower ratings. A strong star rating demonstrates a commitment to customer service and will help drive customers to your locations. Star ratings affect how and where your business appears both in general search and in the Google 3-pack.
  • Review Spread: Sharing your reviews across multiple sites – Google; general third-party review sites; and automotive-specific sites such as CarGurus, Cars.com and Edmonds – will improve your Reputation Score. We know that customers are using multiple touchpoints on their way to buying a vehicle, one of the most complicated purchases they’ll ever make. They’re looking for reviews everywhere they search for vehicles. For instance, Facebook Marketplace is becoming a more popular destination among auto buyers. Will customers find customer reviews of your dealership there?

Whether you rely on the Reputation Score or not – and I certainly hope you will – I urge auto dealerships to avoid the temptation to fixate on getting 5-star customer reviews. Yes, high reviews are essential, but they don’t tell the complete story of your reputation. Reputation management goes well beyond how many 5-star reviews you have. If customers cannot find you, they’ll never see those reviews. (For more insight, here’s a post I wrote related to this topic.)

If you do work with Reputation.com to improve your score, know this: Improving your Reputation Score means improving sales, as this case study illustrates. To learn more about how to improve your Reputation Score, contact us.