Do You Know Your Reputation?
When somebody finds your business in a Google search, what do they see?
Reputation is a powerful force behind any business. A good reputation can make you, and a bad reputation can break you.
So, how can you harness that power?
While “reputation management” has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, many people use the term without having a clear idea of what it means.
By mastering the concepts behind reputation management and implementing a reputation management strategy, you can propel your business to new levels of success.
What is Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is the process of creating, growing, and maintaining a positive online perception of your brand. Your reputation is the sum total of what people think of you. In business, this mostly refers to what customers and potential customers think and say about your company. This can be reflected through:
With reputation management, your goal is to influence what is being said about your business through these platforms.
Why is Reputation Management So Important?
No matter what industry you’re in, a positive online presence is crucial. A good reputation can help bring in customers, while a bad one can drive them away. But even more importantly, a favorable image directly translates to higher search engine rankings, increasing your exposure and bringing in more sales.
Since so much is at stake, you don’t want to leave your business’s reputation up to chance. With good online reputation management, you can take control of how your business appears to potential customers, drive forward your SEO, and ensure that you are putting your best digital foot forward.
Here are the three top reasons that you should make reputation management a priority.
1. A Great Reputation Helps Your SEO
The ultimate goal of any business’s SEO strategy should be a high ranking in search engine results. This ensures that when customers are searching for a service, they see your company before they see your competitors, inspiring more business to come your way.
Building your online reputation is a huge factor in search engine rankings. In the last few years, Google has even increased its emphasis on online reviews when determining rankings.
As Search Engine Land explains, your reputation is a major ranking factor for Google. The information the search engine considers includes what are known as EAT—Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Customer reviews help to establish authority and trust for a listing.
Google uses a complex algorithm when ranking sites, so there’s no simple way to calculate, say, that three positive reviews will move your site up three places in the listings. But a high percentage of featured snippets (the organic listings that appear beneath the ads and above the regular listings) have a significant number of reviews, backing up the idea that Google favors businesses with positive reviews.
Positive reviews lead to positive keywords. So, the more positive reviews you have, the more relevance a search engine assigns to your business, since it sees your business as an important part of your industry.
Another metric that search engines use to determine your page rank is the amount of responses you give to your customers, so try to engage with them online and respond to reviews frequently.
2. A Positive Reputation Attracts More Customers
Perhaps the most compelling reason to pay attention to your reputation is that it affects your bottom line.
Online reviews and business reputation are the first things many potential customers look at before making a purchase. In fact, over 80 percent of customers read online reviews before purchasing something from a company for the first time. If a company ignores bad reviews, they are likely to keep potential customers away.
Many people will investigate your reputation before even trying your product or service. This is true whether you own a brick-and-mortar business (such as a restaurant, gym, or salon) or a service-based company. It’s simple math: a good reputation attracts business, while a negative or invisible one harms your sales.
Online reputation management can build trust for your company and improve conversion rates. This is critical not just for online companies, but for brick-and-mortar businesses as well.
Reputation has always been essential for sales, since long before the digital age. In an earlier era, a local business depended on maintaining good relations with the community in their day-to-day work. This is still true today, but now you have to pay attention to what people are saying online as well.
3. It’s Hard to Repair a Damaged Reputation
Many businesses have learned the hard way that their reputations are everything. Probably one of the most notorious examples of a business that was ruined by its reputation was Amy’s Baking Company, featured on Kitchen Nightmares. After engaging in endless social media (and real life) feuds with customers, the owners had to shutter their business.
Amy’s is an extreme example, but it illustrates how you can end up in a downward spiral of self-destruction if you don’t have an effective reputation management strategy in place. Yes, reputation management is sometimes about damage control, but if you’re more proactive about crafting your online presence and dealing with customers, it’s far less likely that you’ll have to deal with a social media or public relations crisis.
How Do You Manage Your Reputation?
Managing your online reputation is a never-ending task. Since customers can post reviews at any time, your reputation can be impacted at any moment. As a result, you need to do more than just monitor your online reputation every few days. You need to be constantly checking on what people are saying about your business.
The idea of reputation is fairly straightforward. Where it gets a bit more complicated is when you consider how to manage your reputation. On the one hand, you can’t ultimately control what others say about you. However, you can influence the conversation. What’s most important is that you can often change people’s minds. In order to do this, however, you need a reputation management strategy that includes several pillars.
Track Your Reputation
Keep your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about your business. There are two major types of monitoring:
Monitoring each website can prove to be difficult. While some websites will send an alert when there is a new comment about your business, not all of them will—which means you need to check them regularly. However, one way to save time and make sure you get a clear view of your online reputation is to have a consolidated location to see all local reviews and social media mentions. You’ll only have to look at one place instead of dozens—a surefire way to make a little more space in your to-do list. Direction Local provides you with an easy-to-use dashboard that lets you monitor your reputation from one location. You can monitor all the sites you need, quickly handle any negative reviews, and show off your commitment to customer service. Plus, you’ll get instant notifications each and every time a new review about your company is published.
Author and influencer Neil Patel highlights the need for transparency in his guidelines for reputation management. Be as open as possible about your practices and even your mistakes. In the age of social media, it’s almost impossible to keep anything hidden, so you might as well be honest.
Patel gives some examples of what can happen when companies don’t follow this policy, such as Nestle, who ended up taking down their public page after failing to address a stream of negative comments about their water policies.
Don’t Be Defensive
If you get a negative review, you need to handle it as soon as possible. The longer a negative review is ignored, the more customers you may lose. No one wants a negative review, but responding to them properly can actually help create satisfied customers. An attentive response demonstrates that your business cares about its customers.
Respond to customer reviews in a polite and measured tone. Avoid getting into arguments with customers or trying to justify an unpopular position. If you come across a negative review, here are some steps to take in your response:
One example of what not to do comes from the gaming company Electronic Arts (EA), which has the unfortunate distinction of earning the most downvotes on Reddit in history. After customers complained about the game Star Wars: Battlefront 2‘s high price, the company responded defensively and doubled down on its position. This is almost always a mistake. It’s better to admit when you’re wrong and take steps to remedy the situation.
Reputation Management Is an Essential Business Skill
In a world where people are bombarded with information and ads, customers are increasingly discerning about the products and businesses they patronize. How your business is discussed online and off significantly impacts your success. When you are proactive and build up a storehouse of goodwill, it’s easier to weather any storms that might come along.
Are you looking for help managing your company’s reputation or with other digital marketing tasks? Direction offers award-winning digital services including SEO, web design, WordPress hosting, and, you guessed it, reputation management.