Far too many organizations wait until disaster strikes to make the investment necessary to build a positive online reputation. But there are very good reasons why you should take a proactive stance before a flurry of negative reviews surfaces or a customer complaint posted on one of your social channels turns off potential customers. It is much more difficult to mitigate damage than to prevent it. In fact, some negative content is nearly impossible to remove or override.
We said it is nearly impossible. A carefully planned, well executed online reputation management strategy can ease the blow of the most sinister item. It will not happen overnight; establishing a positive online reputation takes time. But the time and effort required are completely worthwhile in almost every single case.
What Is Online Reputation Management?
While the term “online reputation management” may strike those unfamiliar with it as mysterious, it boils down to a few basic principles:
- Reputation management is used to influence the way the public thinks of a business or individual by creating positive items on the Internet.
- It can also suppress existing negative mentions by essentially diluting them with a bunch of positive reviews and by professionally responding to them.
- Reputation management is achieved through practices such as maintaining your own reviews webpage, maintaining third-party review sites such as Yelp, sharing your company’s awards and achievements online, requesting feedback from existing customers, and monitoring social media accounts to present the best image of the brand.
Certain practices are more effective than others when it comes to managing your business's reputation.
Make Your Website Work For You
In a sense, your company’s website is your online business card. It provides a platform for portraying your brand’s image to the world. You should be meticulous when planning its architecture, design and content.
As long as it is not already claimed, always name your domain after your business. For example, if your company is ABC Piano Repair, your home page’s URL should be “www.abcpianorepair.com.”
Depending on the way visitors reach your site - whether it is through one of your social media profiles or search engine results - your home page may be the first part of your website they see. It should be easy to navigate and simple in design to help prevent confusion that could cause prospects to leave without taking action.
Keep copy informative yet concise across your entire website. People do not want to spend their limited time scrolling through endless copy; they want to obtain the information they are seeking quickly. Images and graphics should support the copy in telling your brand’s story. Again, simplicity is key.
The footer and sidebar sections of your website provides great opportunities to showcase your awards, certifications, accreditations, reviews, partners, affiliates, trust seals and security badges.
The “about” page offers another opportunity to promote your business. It should incorporate your mission statement, philosophy, company's culture, staff bios, your story, fun facts, years in business, and more that puts a face to the business and makes it more personal.
Talk about your value proposition on your webpages or landing pages.
- What kind of problems do your services or products solve and for whom?
- What kind of accolades has your company received for the work you do?
- What makes you stand out from your competitors?
- Why should someone choose to work with or buy from you?
- What exactly can I expect when they purchase your product or service so there are no surprises?
When you address these types of questions, you make the value you offer customers crystal clear. Plus, you reduce the number of returns or negative feedback because they are highly informed about it and don't feel mislead.
The contact page should share your contact information such as your company’s address, telephone number, email, map with driving directions, etc. If there is one thing that comes off as shady to consumers, it is not easily being able to contact someone they're trying to do business with. Don't forget to add your hours as well so people know when they can expect a response or visit your property.
Take control of your reputation by creating your own review page that pulls in reviews from off-site sources including social media and 3rd party review sites. The review page is high-quality page with the content you want on it. Offer a way for customers to provide feedback, displaying the good right away to the public and holding off on the bad until you have a chance to flip that experience around. In addition, review schema markup puts a star rating in your search result which is proven to increase click-through rates and PageRank.
Blog Consistently & Often
Maintaining an active blog accomplishes several goals: it positions your brand as a thought leader, helps improve your ranking in search engine results and explains to potential customers how your brand, services or products can help solve their problems.
Every single blog post should be optimized for search AND readers. It's imperative to strike a healthy balance. Your article is worthless if no one can find it, but on the other hand, it is also worthless if no one reads it and learns from it. Search engines are becoming smarter by the day; they can detect content that reads like spam and they measure searchers’ intent. You should always populate your blog with high quality content sprinkled with a reasonable number of key phrases and links determined by the length of each post.
The quality and focus of your blogs matter quite a bit. Your articles need to answer the questions your target audience is actively searching for. Blog about topics that are relevant to your audience and indirectly tell them how your business can help them. Do not write entire posts promoting yourself. Instead, educate them to demonstrate your expertise by writing about common problems and solutions they face. You can talk about your brand in the conclusion and include a call-to-action (CTA) so they know what next step to take.
Brag Humbly About Your Accomplishments
People want to work with companies that have achieved results for other customers. This proves that your services or products are effective. They also want to work with organizations they can trust.
Publishing your accomplishments, including case studies, on your website and social media profiles indicates to potential customers that they can feel confident investing in your business. It also helps differentiate you from your competitors, giving prospects a reason to choose you over others.
Keep Your Content Simple, Yet Effective
While you want to produce unique quality content, you do not want to confuse your target audience or make it cumbersome for them to get through any piece of it. Content should be easily digestible, possible to finish reading within a reasonable amount of time, and provide value to audiences.
Aim to strike a balance between a professional and accessible tone, especially when it comes to social media posts. They should always be conversational in nature, as opposed to being stiff and formal. Even blogs should score high in readability, allowing audiences to immediately grasp the meaning behind every piece of copy you write.
Utilize various styles of emphasis and proper formatting. Bolding important phrases and using a different font color to highlight something gives you control of how people skim through your content. Headings and subheadings should be different font sizes and explain very quickly what will be talked about.
Maintain Strong, Active Social Media Profiles
Leveraging your brand’s social profiles to build a positive online reputation requires specific tactics. The payoff is worth the time spent, as 45% of consumers say they will post about a positive interaction if a brand responds well to a complaint on social media. Plus, social media lets you telling the story of your business including its personality, culture and the latest industry news and updates - all of which contribute to your company’s online image as the authority on this topic.
Beyond that, social media is a good tool for online reputation management because it allows you to address questions, concerns, complaints and praise from potential and existing customers via a public forum. You should always do so in a professional and courteous way, providing some level of resolution to the customer. Those who frequent your social profiles can witness how you handle customer service.
Increase Your Positive Online Reviews...
Think about the last time you tried out a new restaurant or purchased a product from a company you never bought from before. Chances are, you read online reviews before making your decision. The vast majority of people do this very thing when considering the companies with whom they want to do business, with 49% of consumers stating they will not do business with a company that has less than a 4-star rating.
So, what steps can you take if you have too few positive reviews? First, reach out to existing customers via text message or email and ask them to provide their feedback. As long as you do so in one of these two ways - neither of which disrupts their lives or inconveniences them - they are more likely to comply. Think of it this way: You provided something to them and now they have a chance to help you or others by providing a quick and simple review.
...And Decrease Your Negative Online Reviews
Speaking of negative reviews, how do you minimize the harm they can cause to your online reputation? As mentioned above for reactions with dissatisfied customers on social media, your response should always be calm, professional and courteous. Never make it look like an automated or templated response.
Let the reviewer know that you value their experience and you would love to speak further with them about it offline. Give them an easy way to contact you and away from public eyes. You do not want them to become even more upset if they are unable to reach you or get into an argument publicly about it.
Never ignore a bad review. This approach makes your company appear apathetic to the needs of its customers and inaccessible to those who have issues. Regardless of how inflammatory it may be, respond promptly. And never say that you are sorry online, you can do that in person. I know it may sound like a good thing to do, but you are admitting guilt publicly about a situation you don't even know about yet. That is just as bad as offering free stuff or a discount publicly, because there are people out there that will always take advantage of this and write a bad review on purpose just to get that free or discounted item.
Flipping a bad experience (1-2 stars) into a decent or great experience (3-5 stars) is all you can do at this point and is better than nothing. In some cases, a person may delete their review all together if they're still deciding if they are happy or not with the situation, or find out that the fault is actually their own.
Flagging reviews that violates policy with the review platform is another great way to decrease negative reviews online. For instance, a reviewer cannot use profanity or state the full name of an employee. So know your policies, because every platform such as Yelp has their own strict guidelines.
Best Practices To Establish A Good Online Reputation
Follow these best practices listed below in every interaction, whether online or offline, to build a good reputation with your customers and potentials:
- Be responsive in all situations. Return phone calls and emails promptly and address any concerns they have directly.
- Resolve problems in a timely manner to turn a bad situation around. Delight customers with your willingness to try and make them happy.
- Never blame customers for any issues that arise, even if they are at fault. The old adage, “The customer is always right,” applies here.
- Keep your word no matter what. Trust, once broken, can be nearly impossible to repair. When you show customers your company is trustworthy, they feel reassured about doing business with you again and may even spread the word.
- Deliver extraordinary service in the beginning. Make sure your customers are getting exactly what they expected. And pay careful attention to their individual needs and preferences.
Online Reputation Management That Works
Given the substantial impact a positive online reputation can make on the success of your business, it is critical to build and maintain it. This process can be time-consuming and may require resources you do not possess in-house.
Enter Tag Marketing! As a full-service marketing agency that has been helping clients for about 20 years, we have the expertise, experience and tools to create your best online image that will contribute significantly to your lead generation and sales goals:
- We work with software that automates the review request and monitoring process. And we let the world know about your positive reviews with a feature that allows us to auto-publish 4-5 star reviews to your social channels.
- We closely monitor all of your social channels to ensure we engage in positive interactions with your audience, including responding appropriately to any and all feedback.
- The blogs we manage for our clients are directed at their target audiences and actively updated with compelling, engaging, valuable content. Every single blog post is optimized for search engines and viewers at each stage of the buyer's journey.
- Our website design services ensure your website attracts the right type of visitors, generates qualified leads, and turns into sales. We create growth-driven designs taking into account user experience (UX), produce effective content with strong calls-to-actions, and showcase your accolades & trustworthiness.
Find out how Tag Marketing can change the way the world sees your business. Get a free reputation audit today and check out our case studies.