“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
This children’s rhyme does not apply in today’s highly connected world where a few negative words can cost your company a lot of business. Now everything from quality reviews and recommendations, legitimate issues and reputation damaging complaints are there for the entire world to see.
Managing your online reputation is no longer optional. It needs a simple strategy that combines monitoring what is available about you and responding appropriately. This will ensure your business is not unknowingly damaged by negative comments.
Even if you have never added your information into Yelp, Google My Business or other online business directories, it doesn’t mean that your business isn’t already visible online and immune from the backlash of an unhappy customer.
How should your business approach managing its online reputation?
Because of its critical nature to the success of your business, you need to proactively manage your online reputation. It’s not something you should leave up to someone else. When it comes to responding and engaging your audience, you should handle that personally. Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Regularly monitor your brand’s reputation
Search for your business name and see what comes up. Conducting a vanity search helps you identify not only where you are listed but also what is being said about your company. You want to be sure your information is accurate and complete.
Take note of all the places your business name appears. You will need this information to determine what online directories are important to claim and control.
Claim your local business listings
Did you know that 90% of consumers search for local businesses online? So how does your business be visible in a crowded local market.
Claiming your local business listings is a mandatory action item. When a listing is claimed, it sends a message that the business is open and ready to help. Unclaimed listings make your business seem out of touch. Plus you run the risk that someone else can claim your listing.
Make sure the content in the listing is accurate and optimized to include your top keyword phrases to get better visibility for local searches.
Stay or get more active online
Is there something negative about you or your business that shows up in the search results? Removing content from the search results is nearly impossible, but you can make it less visible.
Implement a sound content marketing strategy. Create more interesting and positive content that pushes the negative down and out of the first few pages of the search results.
- Start a blog. Remember each blog post is a new page that can be indexed.
- Implement a public relations strategy. PR is a great way to post positive news about you and your business.
- Post on LinkedIn. This content can show up in search results.
- Guest post on popular blogs. Put together a strategy for guest posting and reach out to quality blogs that take guest posts.
Google wants fresh content so the more you post, the more content you will have in the search results. New pages of content in your or your business’s name will push negative content lower in the results and out of site.
Encourage customers to write reviews about your business
You can’t easily remove negative reviews but there are ways to minimize their impact. However you do need to get your best customers to speak on your behalf.
There are several ways to encourage reviews without being pushy:
- Add a note to your invoice asking “How did we do?” and point them to your website.
- Provide links directly to your Google My Business write a review feature.
- Create a big “Write a Review” button on your website which takes them to a page of links to your Google My Business, Bing Local, Yelp or other online review sites. This makes it easy for you to point them to one place where they can click a link and write a review.
Respond to negative comments and reviews immediately
You cannot ignore what is being posted about your brand online. Reviews, both good and bad, will happen whether you want them or not. Most rational people understand that you can never please everyone all the time, so a couple of unflattering reviews are expected. But if all I find are negative comments, I will question the integrity of the company.
Take the high road and respond to negative reviews. Try to resolve them as quickly as possible. Respond as you, the business owner and be visible, authentic, concerned and humble about the situation. This will alleviate fears and send the message that your company is concerned about their customers. (Then strive to get happy customers to post positive reviews!)
For most of us, monitoring and managing our online reputation is not that difficult. It takes a little time to monitor what is out there and determine what you need to do to respond or change the perception. This exercise is part of your marketing plan. It is important to create the image you want your prospects and customers to see. Even if you don’t have any negative content about you, you still have work to do to create an image that is visible, credible and consistent with your brand.