As consumers, we’ve never had access to more information when it comes to deciding how and where to spend our money. Whether we’re looking for an accountant, roofing contractor or caterer, it’s the work of seconds to pull up consumer reviews and assess a company’s reputation. For consumers, the wealth of information is a powerful tool. Shoppers can find reliable companies. They can also uncover businesses with less-than-savory reputations.
But what does that mean for business owners? It means that your online reputation is incredibly precious. Your good reputation shines as bright as a beacon that leads new customers to your door, whether that door is literal or virtual. The problem is that the lack of an online reputation — or, worse yet, a poor online reputation — can be a big, big problem. Fortunately, it’s possible to polish up reputations in need of repair.
What Factors Affect Your Online Reputation?
Reputation management encompasses more than simply monitoring your customer reviews. Factors like Google search results play a part: If your company doesn’t appear high on the list of results for your key search terms, it may be hard for customers to find your business in the first place. The accuracy of results matters, too: A simple typo in your company’s description could mean that customers have trouble finding your business or determining your hours of operation.
Your company’s social media presence also factors into your brand’s reputation. The look, feel and level of professionalism of your website matters. And yes, your reviews matter, too. You need consumer reviews, and what’s more, you need authentic consumer reviews that reflect real interactions with your business.
Ways To Manage Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is a complex, vital part of how customers perceive your business, and you have to manage it. How do you do that? There are three basic options. Depending on your unique business and other factors, you might use just one or some combination of the three.
For small companies that don’t have major reputation problems, some and even most matters can be handled without professional assistance.
If your customers can post reviews of your business on Yelp or other similar sites, it’s vital that you monitor those reviews. Thanking customers for positive reviews demonstrates your engagement and enhances your reputation. Likewise, how you respond to negative reviews also shows the character of your brand. Inviting disgruntled customers back so you can make things right demonstrates a cool head and genuine regard for customer satisfaction.
You can also DIY aspects of your online reputation by ensuring details like your company’s address, hours of operation and contact information are accurate. Many concerns can often be handled in-house.
Consult With An Expert
When it comes to promoting and safeguarding your company’s reputation — whether you need a sound content strategy, a website redesign or a marketing campaign that will reengage your customers — sometimes a pro is the right answer. What sorts of situations might call for an expert?
If you’re starting a new company, particularly in a crowded field, it’s generally helpful to consult with a professional to establish your presence online. For example, you likely want to rank high in relevant Google searches if you need your ideal customers to be able to find you in seconds.
In addition, even solid, established companies find themselves with reputation issues, whether it’s a string of negative reviews (genuine or not), slipping Google search rankings or a drop in website traffic. A professional can help manage negative reviews, ensure your website appears prominently in relevant searches and help drive traffic to your site.
And then you have the extreme cases. Sometimes, dishonest competitors will post (or pay people to post) false negative reviews about your company. Maybe there’s an awful review mistakenly posted under your company’s name, or perhaps you believe you have a trademark/copyright dispute that’s hurting your website traffic.
There are times when an attorney is exactly what you need. For example, contacting the website and requesting that an erroneous or false review be removed may be a lengthy process that you simply don’t have time to manage. If so, a strong lawyer letter instructing a competitor to cease and desist may suffice. Defamation and infringement are serious and complex legal issues, and if you’re struggling with legal issues relating to your online reputation, you may choose to lawyer up.
Whatever your solution, what’s most important is that you pay close attention to your company’s online reputation and manage it carefully.