What is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is the practice of maintaining a positive image across all relevant channels. It is a major component of your online presence and can easily be broken down into the following areas:
- Obtaining customer reviews
- Monitoring what’s being said about your business online
- Keeping track of the top search engine results
- Taking appropriate action on serious threats to your credibility
- Go into crisis mode (reputation repair) if necessary
Everyone loves to talk online whether it’s on social media, forums, review websites, or other means. You need to pay attention to what people are saying about your business. If they’re not saying very nice things about you, then you need to address the root cause as well as the subsequent poor reviews and unkind words. People rely on search engines heavily when researching a business. SEO giant Moz Local estimates that 67% of consumers rely on online reviews prior to patronising a business. Even when people know to take review sites with a grain of salt, they are still enormously trusted as a go-to place to check website reputation. You need to make harvesting reviews and maintaining your review pages one of your top priorities.
Reputation repair is the “red alert” of online reputation management. This is when bad reviews and buzz about your business are having a palpable impact and you need to rectify it immediately. Even if you just see something bad coming up in the search engine results, you may need to deploy repair tactics to stem the problem before it gets worse.
Online reputation management is all about showing that your business is trustworthy. Better yet, you can even get additional marketing for your business through by engaging in reputation protection strategies.
The Review Process and How it Can Both Protect and Build Your Business
- Review sites are a place where you can be found. In addition to your own website, press mentions, and social media pages, review sites give you another place where you can be found. The more places your business can be found online, the better. While you should focus on the review sites that potential customers are most likely to patronise, expanding your presence through review sites should still be a priority.
- You need to facilitate the review process as much as possible. Even if your customers had a fantastic experience, they’re not likely to feel prompted to write a review for you. Put reminders on the walls and counters at your shop and have your receipts printed with reminders to leave you a review on the site you are looking to expand your presence on. If your business is conducted online only, leave prompts in personalized or automated emails to leave you a review. You need to make the process as easy as possible or else you will never get reviews. It really helps to provide some kind of incentive like a discount or gift card so this not only ensures you get a review, but that they return to buy from you again.
- Never buy fake reviews. The goal of online reputation management is to prove your business is trustworthy: buying fake reviews does the exact opposite. You will be found out eventually. If you really can’t get anyone to leave you a review, asking a friend or family member to help is more honest than buying fake reviews which can come back to bite you.
How Your Business Appears in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
- Most people don’t bother going past the first page. It’s often the very first impression people have of your business. 75% of users don’t go past the first SERP and this can work to both your benefit and detriment. You need to get your business listed in the right places that will appear on the first page of results. What niche is your business in? What kind of reputable websites do people in that niche rely on? If you contribute to cooking blogs or legal search sites for instance, you want to create amazing profiles on those sites because they will come up in the first SERP. By establishing a presence on highly-visited websites that cater to your niche, it helps with visibility and also cementing your credibility.
- Make sure that you delete any duplicate pages. Certain social media and business registry listings can sometimes have duplicates. Delete them as soon as they are discovered because unlike reviews and press mentions, these duplicates do not help boost your SEO ranking and can also confuse potential customers if out-of-date information is on those pages.
- Use your own and customers’ pictures on review sites and other places where your business can be found. Looking at text alone gets boring. If you have a clothing shop, what kind of outfits have your customers put together? Or, what kind of delicious food do you serve at your pub that will get hungry travelers eager to come inside when they see pictures on the road from their phones? Professional photography is a plus in the right circumstances. Either way, pictures help your business seem both more appealing and trustworthy than text reviews when seen in SERPs. Encourage your customers to take pictures and upload them.
- Be as diplomatic as possible when responding to poor reviews. Reality dictates that you can never make everyone happy but potential customers at least need to see that you tried your best to diffuse situations with unhappy customers. This can happen on both social media and the review site. Be courteous and professional, and respond to each bad review. Don’t make the customer feel like they are being ignored. You have less control over bad press, but you can still take matters into your own hands when customers are unhappy and going straight to Yelp instead of you.
- Follow up with the customer in private when appropriate. The public needs to see how you are dealing with the situation at hand and that you are indeed going out of your way to please the customer. Even if the customer will never be satisfied, people will see that you made the effort. Always respond on the review site first so people can see you take action: they can’t see an email. If the problem is persisting, follow up with the customers in private when it is appropriate to do so such as offering a unique discount code or a refund.
- Content is king when you have loads of bad press and reviews that need to be drowned out in the SERPs. Challenging bad reviews can be a dead end. When you’re getting bombarded with them to the point that your profits are being smashed, you need to create a great deal of content. Blog posts, images, videos, stories, anything that has potential to be shared and linked to a lot. Good content will rise up in the search ranking and bump the bad reviews and press off that first SERP. Those things won’t go away completely, but most people won’t look past the first page. As an added bonus, because of the long-term value that content has, it will keep visitors going to your webpages long after it’s been posted.
In summary, reviews are one of the most important aspects of online reputation management. Collecting reviews should be one of your top priorities because people rely on them so much. In addition to helping with SEO, they show that people have patronized your business and also serve as an example of your customer service skills. While organically obtaining reviews can take some time, doing so honestly will have a more positive long-term effect than having no reviews at all or worse yet, buying fake reviews.
The way you come up in SERPs is one of the first impressions people have of your business if they’re looking you up. What links are coming up on that first page? Your website, social pages, review site pages, directory listings, content, and positive press should be on that first page. Photos of your business also break up the text and help create a more trustworthy and reputable image.
SERPs are incredibly important when managing your reputation because most people don’t look beyond the first page of results. While this helps you if reviews are going well, it does the opposite if bad press or angry reviews are climbing to the top of those results. In addition to addressing these comments on the appropriate channels (such as making statements on social media as well as responding directly on the review site), a massive content surge is your best bet against bad things people are saying about your business. Content that is getting a lot of hits will rise in the ranking above the links that don’t say anything nice, pushing it past the first SERP which most people don’t scroll past.
It is the best reputation protection measure that you can take when following up with the dissatisfied customers isn’t working.