From third-party review sites to social sites, and more, there are so many places on the internet where potential customers can go to learn about your products, services, and your overall business reputation.
No business can fully control what others choose to publish about them online, but you can use reputation management strategies to help shape a positive online image.
At least they have a sense of humor about it!
We’ll be sharing everything you need to know to develop a reputation management strategy while answering important questions like:
- What is reputation management?
- Why is reputation management important?
- Where should you manage your online reputation?
- How do you do reputation management–the right way?
Let’s get started!
What is reputation management?
Reputation management means monitoring how people perceive your business–including what they’re saying about you–and taking steps to make sure your business is being portrayed in the most accurate and positive light. This includes:
- Monitoring all the places people might be talking about your business
- Ensuring information about your business is accurate and updated
- Getting and responding to reviews
- Finding ways to position your business positively across sites online
For large businesses with a lot of brand recognition, this can be a huge task. And even for smaller businesses, it’s not the easiest undertaking.
Still, any business large or small can execute a reputation management strategy. The effort to do so aligns with other initiatives that your business is likely already pursuing, such as digital marketing or search engine optimization.
Whether you need to build your reputation, maintain your reputation, or mitigate negative attention, a strong reputation management strategy is worth the investment. By proactively shaping your online reputation, you can help ensure that potential customers see your business name in a positive light, no matter where they come across it in the wide landscape of the internet.
Why is reputation management important?
You know what reputation management is, but why is it so important? Consider these reasons.
People rely on reviews
Did you know that 93% of customers look at reviews before making a purchase? If those users find information that is negative, inaccurate, or misleading about your business, it could influence whether they choose your products or services over your competitors.
Reviews rank in search results
Those digital locations that mention your business can also end up ranking on the first page of search results for any queries that include your brand name. That’s why trying to influence them is critically important. Research from Moz estimates that businesses risk losing 22% of customers if just one negative article shows up in branded search queries.
People pay more for businesses with good online reputations
Did you know that people are willing to pay more (22% more, to be exact!) if a business has good reviews? And that’s the case across nearly any industry. A collection of positive reviews signals to customers that they are highly likely to have a good experience with your business, and that removes some of the hesitations they may have about trying your business.
Related: Learn more about why a good online reputation is essential.
Where should you manage your online reputation?
Research shows that 91% of people use search engines to conduct online research. For that reason, all of your digital locations have an impact on how potential customers see you.
But the internet is a big place. It’s unlikely you can monitor every website that mentions your business name. With so many places on the internet where your online reputation can be harmed, how do you know where to direct your efforts?
We’re breaking down the top places to pay attention to.
Arguably the most important place to manage your online reputation is on third-party review sites. When it comes to small and local businesses, third-party review sites like Yelp, Google Business Profiles, and others have a major impact on your business’s reputation. As mentioned, over 90% of people read reviews before making a purchase!
Online reviews also impact your search engine rankings. Google considers online reviews in its ranking algorithm, and if your reviews are poor, it’s unlikely that your web pages will rank on the first page.
When a user searches for the “best” of something on Google, Google automatically filters results by star rating.
The good news is that a proactive reputation management strategy can help you improve your image across these third-party platforms. (We’ll get more into that later!)
Depending on your industry, there may be other sites that you should monitor as part of your reputation management strategy. For example, Nextdoor is becoming an increasingly important place for home services businesses to get new customers. And healthcare businesses have a bevy of potential sites to include in their monitoring such as Healthgrades and RateMDs.
It’s important to identify the industry-specific sites where your business might have reviews or information listed that could potentially sway customers.
Social media sites
Social media is where your online reputation is shaped in the eyes of current and potential customers. Social media sites have the highest domain authority of any website, so making sure your business profiles look professional and have accurate information is an important part of any reputation management strategy.
When or if your business ever gets a wave of negative attention on social media, it can come quickly and out of nowhere. The good news is that the ability of that social media chatter to impact your brand reputation is a bit overstated. Social media algorithms have very strong recency signals, so after a few days, the negative comments that mention your business will likely fade into the background.
Facebook is the only exception here as it allows users to leave reviews (called “recommendations”) for your business. You’ll want to build up positive recommendations for your Facebook business page so visitors will have a good perception of your business.
If you respond to negative social media comments or reviews promptly and in a fair and transparent way, your reputation will likely return to the overall one people have of your brand.
For this reason, you don’t have to worry as much about social media sites tarnishing your long-term reputation. Instead, look to them as a tool to build a positive reputation. Using your social media presence to share useful information and valuable content with your potential customers will help build an authoritative reputation in the eyes of users.
High domain authority websites
Getting positive coverage in a major online newspaper, magazine, or blog can be a turning point for any business wanting to grow its reputation with potential customers. If that coverage includes a link, it can also help improve your site authority, meaning better Google rankings.
But bad coverage can have an opposite and often devastating effect. Google’s recency signals mean that after time, a news article with negative information about your brand may eventually stop appearing on the first page. But if your business doesn’t have any recent positive coverage to outrank it, it can stay in search results for years.
For example, see what a user will find on the first page of Google if they search the keyword phrase, “what is it like to fly spirit?”
Although this article is several years old, it is still showing up on the first page. That’s because the website has a high domain authority score of 94, which helps it rank higher longer. This is just one of many examples of why monitoring your brand mentions across high domain authority sites is an essential part of any reputation management plan.
Online forums and message boards
Another place to pay attention to online for your reputation management is online forums and message boards such as Reddit. While these sites typically pose a bigger risk for larger brands and businesses, you never want to underestimate the power these communities may hold.
For example, on Reddit, an anonymous user could post about a negative experience with your business–including your business name, address, and phone number along with their complaint. This can then be spread across the site and lead to further negative comments or even people taking their complaints to third-party sites because of what they see on the message board.
Many of these message board postings can also appear in search results, which is another reason it’s so important to monitor what people are saying about your business online.
You can’t control what people say about your business online. But you can control what people see about your business on your website. This is a great place to pull in positive reviews and testimonials to provide an additional place for people to learn about your business while building social proof.
This plumbing website has a page for testimonials
A review widget that pulls in recent reviews from Google or a testimonials page with curated reviews or features from happy clients can help you present your business in a positive light in a prominent place!
How to do reputation management right
Ready to get started managing your online reputation? Here are the steps to do reputation management right.
1. Monitor the most important platforms
As you can see from our list above, there are nearly endless places you could manage your reputation online. But it all comes down to what’s most important for your business. To kickoff your reputation management strategy, do a branded search for your business to see what review sites come up currently–you’ll likely see a Google Business Profile, Yelp page, and potentially an industry-specific review site or other local listing.
Make a note of these sites, along with their URLs, and also include your social media sites and your website.
Once you have your list, you can triage existing reviews (meaning respond to them) and then check back regularly to keep on top of new reviews.
2. Create a Google alert for your business
Setting a Google Alert for your brand name will help you quickly find those other websites that mention your business. If the digital location portrays your brand in a positive light, great. If not, take one of these other steps to help minimize the damage to your business’s reputation.
3. Respond to negative reviews–promptly
People are more likely to leave a review when they have a bad experience, so don’t be discouraged if you occasionally get some. Instead of ignoring the negative comments, respond to each negative review with an apology and a specific suggestion for how to remedy their bad experience. You’ll also want to respond as quickly as possible so you can try to reach a resolution with the reviewer and so potential customers see that you’re on top of your reviews.
You may not be able to repair your online reputation with that particular reviewer, but other users will see your response and know that your brand listens to customers and strives to do better.
If you suddenly get an influx of negative reviews, they could be coming from someone who wants to harm your reputation. If you have a reason to believe that certain reviews are fake, make sure to report them to platform administrators.
In reality, negative reviews are inevitable, but how you respond can go a long way in making sure the impact is as minimal as possible.
When responding to negative reviews:
- Apologize for their experience: This lets the reviewer know you understand their frustration.
- Offer a resolution: You want to let them know you’re willing to fix the issue–this could be a discount, a refund, or something else. You don’t necessarily need to outline this in the review. You can let them know that you would like to talk with them so you can figure out how to make their experience right.
- Take it off the review site: It’s easiest to reach a resolution when you can connect with the reviewer directly. Provide a name, phone number, and email address where they can reach you to further discuss their experience.
Here are a few review response templates that could work:
- Hi [reviewer name]. We’re so sorry to hear about your experience with [specific mention from review]. Our goal is to provide the best experience for all our customers, and we’d love to make this right for you. Please call me at [number] or email me at [email address] so we can connect. Thank you, [your name]
- Hi [reviewer name]. We want all our customers to be completely satisfied, so we’re very disappointed to hear that you didn’t enjoy your [experience/product/etc.]. Please call me at [number] or email me at [email address] so we can make this right. Thank you, [your name]
- Hi [reviewer name]. We’d love to make this up to you. Please reach out to me at [number] or [email address] so we can get more information and make this right. Thank you, [your name]
4. Respond to positive reviews
It’s also important to respond to positive reviews or comments you receive. You want to thank customers for taking the time to let you know about their experience and show that you read their reviews.
Here are some suggested responses to use when responding to positive reviews:
- Thank you for taking the time to let you know about your experience!
- Thanks so much for the 5-star review!
- We’re happy to hear you enjoyed [something mentioned in review]. Thanks for letting us know!
These responses can be short and sweet.
5. Ask for new reviews
Because review sites tend to skew negative (people are more willing to leave a negative review than a positive one), you will have to work harder to get positive reviews. When you’re confident that a customer had a positive experience, ask them to leave a review, and guide them to the platforms that will have the greatest impact.
By responding to negative reviews and building up your positive reviews on review sites, customers will get an overall impression of your brand as one that is well-liked and responsive to customer feedback.
6. Earn new positive press with public relations
Bringing someone in-house who can actively pursue positive press coverage is key to projecting a positive relationship online. If you can’t afford someone yet or if that’s not a sustainable position for your business, consider signing up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO) to easily access journalists and writers looking to cover products and services like yours.
7. Position your business as a thought leader
Contributing thought leadership content or pitching your business as a thought leader to popular industry blogs or publications is a great reputation management strategy. Not only does it show off your expertise, this type of content often ranks really well in branded searches. And the more positive results people see about your business online–the better!
You could find relevant blogs to contribute content to, reach out to local publications to ask if they ever need to interview a business owner (or someone in your niche), and create your own thought leadership content on your website or blog to educate customers and show off your knowledge.
8. Clean up your business listings
Another way to manage your online reputation is to ensure that the business listings that contain your information are accurate and updated. 80% of customers are less likely to trust businesses with inaccurate information on their listings.
This means confirming your hours of operation, phone number, website URL, and business description are correct across the most important business listings.
By presenting the most accurate information about your listings on these sites–many of which also contain reviews–you can build trust and keep from losing customers due to inaccurate contact information.
9. Optimize your social media profiles
User comments and tweets that mention your brand name are unlikely to rank in search results, but your business profiles will. Make sure you have thorough descriptions of your products and services, and that your profiles include references to the keywords you want to rank for.
10. Develop a social media strategy
Having a strong social media presence is key to growing your reputation in your industry and driving traffic to your website. Although people don’t have as high of search intent when using social media, they will start to associate your brand as having expertise and authority in your niche.
11. Prioritize customer service
The best way to make reputation management easy for your business is to deliver the best products or services to your customers and prioritize customer service. Good customer service goes a long way and can be the difference between chasing down negative reviews or seeing the glowing reviews file in.
Make sure to train your team on good call handling, quick customer follow-up, and how you want to present your business to customers.
Become a reputation management pro
As you pursue local marketing, more people will get to know your brand and publish content and reviews about you. Having a reputation management strategy in place means your business can help shape those narratives, keeping your brand in good standing for the long haul–even during challenging moments.
Here are tips for a good reputation management strategy:
- Monitor the most important platforms
- Create a Google alert for your business
- Respond to negative reviews–promptly
- Respond to positive reviews
- Ask for new reviews
- Earn new positive press with public relations
- Position your business as a thought leader
- Clean up your business listings
- Optimize your social media profiles
- Develop a social media strategy
- Prioritize customer service
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