Online Reputation Management: Putting the Best Digital Foot Forward
Online Reputation Management is about proactive action, not reactions to disasters
In the past, reputation management hasn’t always had the best “reputation” itself. If you’ve ever heard the terms “public relations” or “crisis control” in relation to a business, you may think of a sleazy team of men in suits covering up shady business practices or even straight out lying to the public in order to beat the competition and make their client look better. In the dawn of the internet, it may have become even harder to discern factual information from misinformation about a business. That’s where online reputation management comes into play. Because the internet is open to everyone, it’s important to maintain a reputation that is factual, credible, authentic and accessible.
If you own a business, your online reputation is everything. According to a 2019 study by The Transaction Agency, 81% of shoppers research their product online before purchasing. This means a customer will likely shift through numerous websites, product descriptions, prices, and perhaps most importantly, customer reviews before ultimately making a decision. In addition, websites must be easy to use, read and navigate if there’s any hope for a customer to ultimately purchase an item or service.
There’s both a right and wrong way to conduct online reputation management, which this basic guide will cover. In addition, regular, daily monitoring of your online brand positioning is absolutely crucial. Online reputation management is critical to any digital marketing strategy and if you haven’t incorporated it in already, now is the perfect place to start.
Boosting your online reputation yourself the right (and truthful) way
Luckily, building your online reputation management strategy is easy and something you can do yourself. In fact, it is often advantageous to have complete control of your online reputation versus outsourcing the task to an online reputation agency. Though search engines like Google have made more effort to counteract malicious online reputation practices, like business owners deleting negative reviews, certain agencies still employ some shady strategies. We call this the business of “removing a bad reputation.” An agency may attempt to remove a negative review, bully an unsatisfied customer into deleting their review, or simply create false positive reviews to create a great business reputation. You’ve probably seen a handful of these “positive reviews” from “verified customers” yourself. They may be misspelled, look strangely similar to each other or come from a different country. If your business is found to be practicing shady online reputation management strategies, you could face serious legal action and a complete destruction of your brand’s positioning online.
As a business owner, you know you’re likely to get both positive and negative reviews. Nobody, and no business, is perfect. Rather than fear getting a negative review and attempting to cover it up, build a stockpile of positive reviews to have in your arsenal. That way, a negative review looks more like one unhappy customer versus a wide community of people who don’t like your business. To generate more positive reviews that come from genuine sources, use the database you already have and consider automating the process. A platform like Review Monkey manages the entire review process by closing the customer experience loop with a simple, automated “how did we do?” The platform sends an immediate text or email to a customer after they’ve purchased a product or service. Customers who had a positive experience are encouraged to leave a review and sent a gentle follow-up if they forget. Customers who had a negative experience are asked to leave real-time feedback, giving you the opportunity to amend the customer’s bad experience before they leave a formal review.
Automation increases positive online reviews with minimal effort on your part and can really boost your brand’s overall online reputation. In terms of dealing with negative reviews, Review Monkey has several ways to mitigate the impact, which you can read more about in our Reporting Fake and Malicious Reviews blog post. In general, always correct the situation as quickly as possible, be polite and to-the-point and incentivize the customer to come back. And, be sure to respond to every review, both positive and negative, you get in a timely and appreciative way.
Here’s some other strategies to employ for a positive online reputation management strategy. The most important cornerstone of online reputation management is understanding you can’t control everything. You can’t always mitigate bad press or a customer determined to be unhappy, but you can do certain things to make your business seem more credible and valuing of your customers.
1. Claim your properties and listings
If you don’t already, make sure your business has a functioning website. This website should be transparent, easily-navigated and clear for searchability purposes. All claims made should be easily verifiable and product descriptions should be accurate. This will also lend to your search engine optimization efforts, so a customer can actually find your business when they conduct an online search. You can also feature positive reviews on your website.
In addition, you should claim your Google My Business page. This listing helps provide potential customers with the most accurate location, review and service information about your business. According to BrightLocal.com, the average business’s Google My Business listing is viewed over 1,200 each month. This is why it’s so important to maintain relevant information in your listing, using key words that will help lend to your SEO ranking.
2. Keep your social media profiles clean and up-to-date
Keep your LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and any other social media profiles clean from your personal information or personal views. Make sure to post content regularly that is informative, truthful and consistent with your brand’s standards and mission. Overall, each platform you operate should have the same look and feel and be helpful to those searching for more information.
3. Engage in Active Review Management
Review Management is the art of increasing your positive online reviews and then maximizing your positive reviews through marketing.
I wrote a full blog series on Reputation Management, you can find the first article in the series here: Review Management 101 – Part 1: Providing Amazing Customer Service