By Myk Baxter
Now it’s out there, your business is open for all to see. Visitors from across the world will seek out or stumble across your business and many will follow through with purchases or make contact and inquire about your services.
While most will be looking at your site positively, there are always a handful of customers who have something less than positive to say. There’s also trolls and competitors who play dirty tricks to bring down the reputation of your business too – all of which needs a robust online reputation management plan to counter these unfavourable effects.
Reputation is Crucial
In this digital age, a great deal of importance hangs on online reputation. In fact, a good online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a business has.
Most research people do about a company or product is online, and they do this research well before they even consider buying. Online reviews are one of the primary sources for unbiased, genuine opinions – social proof in reviews and star ratings that influence the buyer more than any advertising campaign, no matter how innovative.
In 2018, a study by TripAdvisor published in Forbes asked business owners and operators across the globe about the key industry trends that are top of mind for them this year. Overwhelmingly, 97% of respondents made it clear that maintaining a positive online footprint and digitally engaging with their potential customers. The same was true for online reviews and social presence, both also overwhelmingly significant.
As the saying goes, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” so arguably it’s impossible to fully avoid a hit to your online reputation now and again. One thing’s for certain however, burying your head in the sand never helps.
If a customer leaves a bad review or lashes out in the hope of some free service, respond patiently and calmly to their concerns. Responding to bad reviews in a positive manner shows your customers that your business listens and is adaptable to their needs, for example.
However, when online reputation really falters, by either a mistake by the business or a customer with an overemphasised agenda, it can be incredibly difficult to climb back.
For many small businesses that rely on the internet for eCommerce or brand recognition, it’s game over. What is more, most sites don’t typically alert you to any new reviews either – so if you’re not checking every platform, it could all be happening when you’re blissfully unaware.
Reputation management also goes as far as improving a company’s status when appearing in search engines results and other high-traffic online spaces. Implementing good SEO immediately begins to improve a business’ image, so by creating information that plays to specific keywords (both negative and positive) can help your business stand up for itself when people are looking for the worst.
Simply put, SEO can help boost positive content about your business while simultaneously burying negative information further down search engine results. Another trick is to go straight to the source – Google. In some cases, Google can remove listings from its results if the content is found to be inappropriate or defaming. Their removal policies shed more light on this.
If you haven’t done this before, companies should always claim their Google My Business listing, Yelp listing and any other review platform listing so they can manage, reply and organise reviews to maintain a more positive perspective. Also, encouraging reviews from happy customers through special offers or discounts for positive reviews or star ratings on your product pages help and encourage people to review your business and it’s products with ease. However, bribing people with positive reviews is a big no-no, so make sure you give your special offers to everyone, even those who rate you 1 star – you never know, your discount may change their mind.
And although online reputation sounds easy enough to manage, when it starts to slip out of your grasp, it can be a big challenge to get it back.
In my next article, I will explore the well-known but not-so well-understood world of search engine optimisation. Touching on it a bit above, I will go into more detail and explore the do’s and don’ts of SEO and why it’s one of the most important elements to maintaining a positive and visible online presence.
Myk Baxter is a digital consultant with a vast experience building, planning and mapping out marketing strategies. To find out more visit https://www.mykbaxtermarketing.com/