Why Online Reputation Management Is So Critical For Small Businesses

by Kurt Lohmann

Online reputation management is a very important part of any business, and even more so for small businesses. Consumers are more likely to trust and buy from businesses with good reputations, and reviews are the go-to source for consumers and clients.

Online reviews are a big part of how today’s consumers discover, evaluate and trust businesses. In this article, we'll look at what reputation management is and how you can build a system to ensure that your business maintains a positive reputation.

The management of a company's online reputation is not a new concept, but as the internet and social media have become more prevalent in our daily lives, managing your business' online reputation is becoming increasingly important to its overall success. The digital world impacts everything, from how consumers find out about products and services they need to buy, to businesses determining who they want to work with.

The Importance of Online Reviews

In today’s digital world, online reviews have become a valuable source of information for consumers and clients alike. Consumers are increasingly relying on independent feedback from peers to make decisions about where they'll spend their money--or the time they invest in learning more about products or services that may be right for them. This means that businesses need to be aware of their online reputation.

We can break down the role of online reviews in the buyer’s journey into three aspects: discover, evaluate and trust.

Discover

So the first stage is discover. When your business has more positive online reviews, it has a better chance of ranking higher in local searches on Google and other sites. This means that people are more likely to find your business when they’re looking for local service providers or products, just because you have more reviews that are positive. 

In addition, your reviews can help your business show up in Google’s ‘Local Pack’, near the top of the search results page. Online reviews are playing more and more of a part in local SEO for companies.

Evaluate

The next stage in the journey is evaluation. Your potential clients might be evaluating you on Google, Yelp, Facebook or another site. As a potential customer evaluates your listing and star ratings, they’re also evaluating your competitors. So, who will they choose?

More often than not, they will reach out to the business with the best reviews/reputation. The benefit of online reviews is twofold: your reviews are making you rank higher, then they’re getting you more clicks and calls.

Trust

Finally, online reviews build trust. A business with a great online reputation will establish great trust with a prospect before they’ve even spoken to them. Just think about your own experiences when searching for products or services online. Do you look at the star rating? Do you read through some of the negative reviews and negative content that is written? Most consumers probably do.

Here are some important statistics about reputation management and trust:

So, not only will you rank higher and get more clicks and calls, but potential clients will be easier to sell to or more likely to hire you because of your online reviews.

Trust building for a brand doesn't just happen on review sites and search results. It can also be built on social media. In fact, reputation management strategies should include social media channels where your clients and customers dwell.

***Now that we've gone over the importance of your business' reputation online, let's now look at how reputation management works.

What exactly is online reputation management?

Online reputation management is the process of controlling how your business or brand is perceived online. This includes developing a reputation management strategy, monitoring your business' reputation, and responding to feedback in a timely and professional manner. You need to be aware of where you customers and clients are leaving their feedback. This could be social media sites, Yelp, Google, or industry specific sites.

Developing a reputation management strategy

You need a process in place for online reputation management. This will vary based on your company size, industry and resources, but the key is to have something in place to monitor and respond to reviews, as well as increase the positive reviews.

What are the steps to creating an online reputation management strategy?

First, perform an audit to evaluate your current online reputation.

  1. Check your Google search results for any negative comments or mentions of your company
  2. Search for your company name on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what people are saying about you
  3. Review the comments section of articles written about your company - do they have anything negative to say about you or is it all positive feedback from customers and other businesses in the industry
  4. Look at how many links there are that mention your company's name - if there are a lot of them with a high PageRank (PR) then this is good for SEO purposes but if not then this could be an issue with online reputation management
  5. Make a list of the most important sites for you to focus on. Remember, you don’t have to be everywhere. Google My Business should definitely be on the list though.

After you have a better understanding of your reputation online, it's time for the action items.

Monitor your online reputation

Monitoring reviews is an important element of business management. Online reviews are necessary for building trustworthiness in a company and driving sales, but few companies have the resources to track every review on all sites.

Luckily, there are tools and services to help. Click here for more information about our review management software, More Thumbs Up.

Respond to feedback from customers or clients

Yelp launched in 2004 and with that launch, many companies lost some control over their reputation. People flocked to Yelp to leave reviews about products and businesses they had interacted with. Many people found Yelp to be a great channel to vent their frustrations with. Soon after their launch, Google and Facebook moved into the review space, which led to the mainstream adoption of online reviews.

You've probably seen social media posts or even stories in the news about businesses replying to negative reviews in a confrontational manner. It's just bad press. The sad thing is that once it's online, it will likely live there forever.

By monitoring review sites, your business has the opportunity to respond quickly to reviews, both positive and negative. You can build on positive reviews to show appreciation and reply appropriately to negative ones to help remedy to issue.

The key point here is that you need to respond.

Why wait for reviews and be at the mercy of the negative ones? There's a better way if you have a strategy in place.

Get more positive reviews

The third element of a reputation management strategy is building a system for getting positive reviews. User created positive content holds a lot of power. It's a lot easier to get people to say good things about you than it is to make them stop talking.

So, how do I get users create content? There are many ways:

But, how can you be sure the customer will give you a positive review and not a negative one? You need to have some control over the review process.

Gaining control of your online reputation

As mentioned previously, reputation management means controlling how people perceive your business. The best way to control the review generation process is to have some sort of 'filter'. For example, you can first ask people to rate their experience from 1-10. Set the threshold for both positive and negative responses, then send people down a specific path, depending on their response.

Positive responders can be asked to leave a review on the site of your choice, while negative responders are offered a solution to remedy any issues they had.

You can manually build a system like this, use one of the tools already available or hire a reputation management company to handle it for you. That decision will depend on your resources, budget and how many review sites you want to focus on. Hiring a reputation management company is also a great option and is fairly inexpensive.

Next Steps

In summary, getting a company's online reputation under control can be difficult. It requires paying attention to all the different social media channels, making sure what you do is consistent with your brand image, and wisely engaging customers through those mediums. 

Reputation management needs to be a priority

Your online reputation not only protects your business from potential issues, but also helps provide peace of mind for customer interactions that would otherwise lead to disputes or angry comments on sites like Yelp!

To learn more about Engaged Digital's online review management services, click HERE.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram