No business can succeed today without devoting some time to their online presence. In particular, this is referring to their online reputation. More and more people are using the Internet to find out about a business, thus it is necessary to have some presence online in order to be found by potential customers. Furthermore, your online reputation can determine your success for the future. Hence, the importance of learning how to properly manage and develop your online reputation.
Why is Online Reputation Important?
Having a positive online reputation is vital to your business success. Consider this type of scenario, your business offers plumbing products, and a potential customer is searching online for a company that provides these products.
If your online reputation is nonexistent or there are tons of negative remarks about your company, chances are the person is going to choose someone else for their plumping product needs. This is where a stable and positive online reputation could have helped to make a sell. However, this is not the only reason as to why an online reputation is important. There is also:
- Shows potential or current investors that you are a business to invest into
- Your online reputation can also affect the people who apply to work for you
- Affects whether other businesses turn to you for the product or service that they need
If your online reputation is damaged, your business is damaged.
Common Online Reputation Issues
There are several issues that can be seen with most business when looking at their online reputation. Here are some of the most common:
Negative Customer Reviews
Many businesses who do not maintain an active monitoring of their online reputation are often surprised when they receive a negative review that is starting to affect their customer base. Many negative reviews can be prevented with stellar customer service, and those that are written can be aided with the proper responses.
The Internet is an amazing tool, however, in the wrong hands, this can turn into something dangerous. When you are facing a highly competitive market, it is nothing for a business to find that there are tons of hate reviews out there about them or even comments made about how awful their business may be that are not true. These comments are placed online by the competition, and though it is a deceitful and distasteful way to do business, it does happen.
A Dismissal from Experts
When a consumer is looking for a new product or service, they are going to take the advice of what are considered “experts”. If a business ruins their image with an expert, that expert can make their business suffer. If an expert were to plainly omit suggesting a company or even slander the company, then the online reputation is slowly starting a downward spin.
Though these are the issues that are facing most businesses, there are an alarming number of businesses who are committing errors with their online reputations, and are not even aware that they are causing untold damage. The most common errors that are being seen with online reputations are:
- Companies do not seem to put enough stress on the importance of the online reputation, which is resulting in some companies simply not caring. This is going to directly affect their bottom line. However, there are some companies, even those that are based entirely online, that are not giving the attention to this aspect that is needed.
- Though companies may have social media accounts, they have no idea as to what they are doing and are doing everything without having any type of plan in place that helps them to see what to do. In the end, this is going to hurt them tremendously.
- Responding inappropriately to comments or reviews is becoming a huge issue. And once a business responds negatively, it is almost impossible to undo the damage.
The good news is that with the proper knowledge about online reputations, a business can start to maintain this better and will find that their business benefits from this.
Handling Your Online Reputation
With online reputation, every business owner needs to remember that they must do whatever is necessary in order to make sure their reputation remains unchanged and intact. Or in worse case scenarios, that they are starting to form an online reputation. There are several ways that are highly recommended in order to start your online reputation the right way.
Social media is a huge tool to use in order to maintain and to start a stellar online reputation. There are several social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. However, no business should limit themselves to the type of social media that they are using. Instead, a person should look for the social media that is going to fit their needs the best.
There are tons of social media groups out there that have a common goal or a common interest. A business who really wants to utilize social media in the best way possible will belong to as many of these groups that could have potential customers in them. In order to use social media for online reputation, remember these key points:
- Post information that is going to be valuable and entertaining to your followers
- Be sure that you are posting information that is going to help you to establish yourself as a expert in your field
- Post often to social media sites
- Interact with those who are using these social media sties, as social media is all about relationships
- You can use social media for advertisement as well as maintaining your reputation, but do not use this solely for advertising as this will affect your reputation with customers
With the rise of social media, this is not something that you can put off doing. In fact, those businesses who are not using social media are going to find that they are getting left behind the rest of the business world. For those who are considering social media or wanting to expand their options, here is a short list of social media sites to consider:
- Google Plus
These are just a few of the more popular sites that businesses are finding success on currently.
Blogging is becoming the best way for businesses to showcase why they are the best business choice and how they have expert knowledge in the field. There are several companies who have a blog on their website, while others maintain a separate blog site. The idea behind any blog is:
- Entertain the reader
- Inform the reader
- Show the reader that the writer knows what they are talking about
- Encourage readers to use the business when they are in need of the product or service that is being offered by the business
This seems like a lot for any blog to do. However, blogs that are successful are doing this everyday. The blog also helps to maintain an online reputation that is good and reliable. Online reputations work hand in hand with blogs, as a blog is your chance to shine and show the world what your business is made of. With this being said, a business will want to follow a few key steps to maintaining a business blog:
- Post about subjects that are going to be of interest to readers
- Regularly schedule posts as this shows that your business is reliable
- Be open to comments that are added and respond to these
- Try to answer any and all questions with your blog that may arise
A blog does not take that long to set up and it can be handled with just a few hours devoted per week. It is a no cost way to really affect how people see your business online. Be sure that you utilize Google Plus with your blog, as this has shown to be incredibly effective in reaching a higher number of readers. Plus, it is just another way to combine social media with your blogs for even more appeal to readers, and to help cement your reputation as a honest and knowledgeable business.
Videos are dominating social media more than ever, and a business who has videos out there, will find that their business is easily found by potential customers. In addition to this, these can serve as great ways to enhance your online reputation as you can prove your credibility with this type of media.
Videos can be of anything that you want, but you will find that as a business the more that you can show you know what you are doing in your field, the better you will be. That is why videos that show how to sources, emphasize the importance of your product or service and related concepts are going to rank higher and be more helpful to watchers.
A great idea is for your business to have a YouTube channel in which you post videos weekly or bi-weekly. The idea is that over time your channel will become the go to for customers who need advice on the service or products that you offer. For example, a business that works in the advertising industry may provide videos on negative advertising and then show how they work with you to make your advertising campaign work for your business.
Videos do not have to be long at all, in fact, the shorter that it is, the more likely people are going to watch. Most people would rather watch a short 3 minute segment, rather than an hour long feature online. The key to this is to ensure that your subject matter is clear and concise, and answer everything that needs to be answered within a certain time frame.
Though many businesses have stopped the use of press releases, these are still great ways to get the word out about a new product or service that you are offering. There are several websites that cater to press releases. All a business owner has to do is to write up these press releases and send these to the websites that can publish these. It is a good idea to utilize several websites for these press releases in order to ensure that you reach a wide demographic. You can also use these press releases on your own blog and publish a link via the social media that you are active on to enhance the number of customers that you reach.
Your Business Website
SEO, or search engine optimization, is an important tool when it comes to online reputation. The whole idea behind SEO is that you utilize keywords that are going to get your website ranked on search engines, like Google. It would make sense to place these keywords in easy to see areas that are going to get you ranked.
However, Google has passed new rules about SEO, which does encourage the use of natural keyword placement. Meaning, that the keyword that you use should not appear every other sentence. If it does, you are going to find that the website will be ranked lower. Your businesses website is one of the first faces that people see when they search online for your business.
Thus, it should be a website that you are proud of and one in which customers will be impressed with. The SEO of your website is vital, therefore, many businesses get professionals to handle their SEO to ensure that there is nothing that is going to penalize them later. A few rules to with your website development:
- Have websites pages that are designed to deal with all the products and/or services the business offers. Do not just have a one page website. Utilize the space effectively and make your website a bit more complex and more organized.
- Have internal and external links on your website, as these are helpful. But, be sure that these links are live and that they are active. Just linking to whatever is not going to get your ranked higher in Google.
- Only use original content on your site, which does mean putting in the time to develop this content. If duplicate content is found, your site will be penalized for this.
- Never repeat content on different pages within the website, as this is going to be looked at as duplicate content, which can affect your search engine rating.
- Do not stuff keywords into the text, let this appear naturally.
- Utilize tags and titles that are going to be keyword relevant for easier search ranking.
Having a website to maintain an online reputation is a must in the current market. If a business were to avoid a website, they cannot except to have much control over their online reputation, as the business is not online.
Dealing with Negativity
There are going to be times, no matter how stellar your online reputation is that you will receive negative comments. Many times negative comments are due to ex-employees or customers who feel as though they were wronged. The worse thing that a business can do is to let these negative comments go without saying a word about them.
This can be very damaging online as these negative reviews may be the first aspect that potential customers see about your business. Car dealers can have a particularly hard time due to the sales nature of the business, but this applies to all industries serving consumers. However, you should not respond immediately with a retort that may be full of angry. In doing this, you do more damage to your online reputation. There are several steps to follow in order to ensure that you are dealing with the negative comment appropriately:
- Check to see if the comment is merited. This means looking at what is being said, and if the customer is really talking about something that happened or not. Many negative comments are posted onto complaint boards via the competition, and it is important to rule out if this is possible or not.
- If you find that the comment is not warranted and that this is being put there by a competitive business, then petition to have this removed by the website. In most cases, if you can prove that the competition is doing this, these websites will remove the comments as they are only interested in real comments by real people who have done business with the company.
- If the complaint registers as being real, then you need to damage control. This means really reading the complaint and responding in a manner that shows your business does care about customer service and is going to do all that you can do in order to make the situation right again.
So just how should a business respond to the negative complaint? The best method is through posting publicly to the complaint an apology and asking the person to get into contact with you via a personal method to help make the situation right.
This shows that you did read the complaint and are making efforts to work this out. In the event that the person never contacts you, it is not a bad idea to post publicly that the person filing the complaint never followed up with you. There are businesses that post their solution to the complaint publicly. For example, a complaint about a product may mean that the business publicly posts their apology and gives directions on how to return the defective product for a new one or for a full refund.
In doing this, they show the public that they work with their customers, and this gives a sense of trust to the consumer market. Under no circumstances should you respond to a negative comment with your own negativity, even though you may feel like it at the moment. Instead, it is recommended to follow these tips:
- Allow a few days to pass before posting to one of these negative comments so that you are not responding with high emotions
- Always read your response thoroughly, before posting this to ensure that it is sincere and not sarcastic or has any trace of anger in it
- Be ready to follow through on whatever you promise in your response, as this is a big part of maintaining your online reputation
One of the main questions that business ask when dealing with their online reputation is what they should do in the event that a negative review is rather harsh and damaging to their brand? There are situations in which many businesses have found that a review or comment is slanderous, threatening and simply rude. In these cases, a business owner will find that responding to the comment is out of the question. Instead, a business should look at their legal options. Legal options can include:
- Defamation Lawsuit: Which only works if you can prove that the comments/reviews are false and can be proven to be wrong. Sometimes, just threatening with a lawsuit can have the comments or reviews removed from the website. But, you must be ready to follow through with this.
- Harassment Charges: If the poster does make comments that are harassing or threatening in any way, then you can take these comments as a form of harassment and is a punishable crime.
- There is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that is meant to protect your images or other information that you have online. If a comment or review online uses this information in a negative manner or without your permission, you can have it removed immediately.
- A UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) is in place to protect against your trademark. Which is something that you should look into if you believe that your brand has been used in a way that you do not approve of.
Monitoring Your Online Reputation
In order to manage your online reputation, you must know how to search for items being written about your business by utilizing reputation monitoring with vigilance. There are several ways in which you can monitor what is being said about your business, and all of these are something that every business should be considering.
Setting up Google Alerts when the name of your business or even the name of the business owner is mentioned is a great way to be on top of when something new is posted online. This is a valuable tool that will deliver results to your email inbox everyday if there is information being said. It can be one of the best ways to stay on top of your online reputation.
Google’s Me On The Web
This tool helps to monitor whenever your name is mentioned, even monitoring social media feeds for the name mention. It can be a great way to determine if there ex-employees or disgruntled customers.
There are tons of monitoring software on the market that are going to work to monitor your brand image and name for you. The good news is that the majority of these are free to use, and require a simple sign up process. For example, currently is a search tool that looks through 20 different search images for the term you enter, in this case, your business name. Look to see what is out there and just what it can do for you. These types of tools can save you from searching online for hours a day to find information about your business.
Putting it All Together
The online reputation of a business can make or break the business. A bad online reputation will result in losing customers and not being able to get new customers to work with the business. This can also affect any potential business dealings, such as finding investors or the like.
The online reputation of a business can be controlled with constant monitoring and learning how to deal with those negative comments. However, there are going to be times in which a business simply has to turn its head to what is being said, especially if this is very malicious. In worse case scenarios, businesses have to have the law on their side in order to avoid these complaints ruining their online reputation. Be sure that you are:
- Using social media to balance your online reputation
- Have a useful website and blog
- Utilize press releases
- Have videos that show your business expertise
- Utilize software to monitor the Internet for news or comments about your business, or do this on your own
In addition, avoid doing things that could hurt your online reputation more, such as:
- Responding to complaints with anger
- Utilize SEO techniques that are going to penalize your website
Your online reputation is essential to the success of your business. It is easy to become obsessed with monitoring this and doing everything in your power to ensure that your reputation is not tarnished. The reputation is that essential to success. Through following your reputation and addressing any issues that arise, you should be able to ensure that your business has the stellar reputation that you have always dreamed of having, and your business results will reflect the hard work that has been put into managing your online reputation.