Online reputation management is relatively new and the majority of small and mid-size businesses don’t give it much attention. However, simple marketing principles will tell you that people listen to other people before making a purchase; one bad review can have an adverse effect on your sales. The numbers support it as well, with a study by Dimensional Research showing that 90 percent of customers are influenced by online reviews.
With the widespread use of the Internet, those bad reviews can spread like wildfire. What can you do to prevent one bad apple from ruining your entire fiscal bushel? This is where online reputation management comes in. This refers to the activities companies take to increase their brand mentions in a positive light while limiting those that are negative in nature.
You may think that, because it’s the Internet, if a bad review is out there you’ve already lost—once it’s out there, it’s there forever. While there is truth to that, those bad reviews can be pushed down the search engine rankings so that its exposure will be very minimal.
That being said, you should not wait for a bad review to start managing your online reputation. As they say, prevention is better than cure so it is better to take a pro-active approach.
To help you out, here are 5 steps small businesses should take to avoid an online reputation crisis:
- Take SEO seriously. If people are searching for a related query on search engines, you want to be the first website or webpage that they see, and you want the negative review not to be seen at all. To achieve this, you have to be able optimize your pages so that they are on the first page as much as possible. This requires the ability to choose the right branded and non-branded KWs, an understanding of how search engines work, and a deliberate content strategy that will provide the information that is being searched for by users. You can also create blog posts that are shareable and optimize those as well. Remember that most people do not even go past the first page, so if you can move those bad reviews on further pages, the better.
- Create social profiles. Today’s consumers are very reliant on social media for buying decisions—in fact, social signals are considered to be one of the biggest factors that affect Google rankings, according to experts. As much as possible, use your company name on your social media accounts, as this adds legitimacy to the accounts. Here you can quickly address both positive and negative reviews.
- Monitor your brand mentions. To monitor when people talk about you, you can either use Google Alerts, Mention.net or trust a professional to keep tabs on online conversations about your brand both on and off the top social networks. This way, you are always aware not only when someone says negative things about your product or service, but positive comments as well.
- Always address negative reviews. If you find negative reviews, one way of minimizing the damage is to simply respond to the review but in a responsible way. Do not argue with the reviewer. While apologizing and giving a token may be an option, simply answering the points raised will already bring goodwill to your reputation.
- Encourage positive reviews. You should also encourage positive feedback from bloggers. What you can do is publish, share and link to their posts. This way, you are promoting positive reviews while helping the reviewers drive in traffic.
If the negative reviews or posts are unfair, you can flag it as inappropriate then report the policy violation. There is also an option to submit a legal request if the review is slanderous in nature. You can also take direct legal action by filing a lawsuit against the reviewer.
This, however, should be a last resort type of action and should be reserved to unfair and slanderous comments. If you run into this sort of crisis, talk to a professional in online reputation management and weigh your options. Keep doing what you do, do it well, and the good reviews will come in before long!
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