One of the first things that I look for when I'm considering purchasing services from a local professional is to check out what their reviews are like online. You get an instant picture of what you can expect when doing business with them, and you get an idea of what real consumers have to say about their services. Watch out for fake or scripted online reviews! These are sometimes hard to spot, but a couple of these items will indicate a red flag somewhere:

1. All of their reviews are 5 stars.

This should serve as an immediate red flag. Either the review is scripted and the owner likely created an account on their behalf to leave the review. You might notice that all of the reviews are written in a similar way. No two people write alike, so watch for changes in word usage, tense, and presentation. This is a common tactic that people use so they rank higher in search results.

2. Their business website is old and outdated.

A website that takes longer than 5-7 seconds to completely load, is poorly laid out and has little to no visual appeal is a sure way for a new visitor to leave your site. New websites should be optimized for mobile smartphones, load in less than 4 seconds, and be easy to navigate with clean, dark fonts on light backgrounds.

3. They don't have any reviews!

The worst thing for a business is not having an online presence. This means that you are either not with the times, or don't care enough about your business to market your services online. Naysayers may cry, "I don't need an online presence, my business has been doing fine for 30 years using only the yellow pages!". Free business listing profiles like Angie's List, Thumbtack, and Facebook are a great way to get started listing your services online without breaking the bank.

4. They don't have a places page!

Every reputable search engine has a way to list your business within their online directory. These 'places' listings will allow customers to find where your business is located, the hours you are open, and the products and services that you offer. They also allow you to post pictures, reviews, and other information so consumers can read a little about your business before going to your website for more information. These places pages should be created with a high level of quality, as these are the first things a customer will see before coming to your site!


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