Back in 2008, the personal beliefs of a business owner somehow caught the attention of the public. These beliefs were so controversial that there was an immediate and overwhelmingly hostile reaction from all corners of the Internet world. And even if the beliefs in question were personal, the business suffered a great deal as a result.
Understandably, there is no such thing as a perfect business establishment, and every single business will hit a rough patch somewhere along the way. Customers will have issues with your product, service, or anything related to you at some point. If you are proactive, then you should be able to deal with these issues easily enough. If you’re not, then you are likely to suffer the same fate as the business mentioned above. This is why it is very important for you to learn how to properly manage your online reputation.
SEO and Your Online Reputation
Being a business owner in this day and age, you probably already understand the importance of establishing an online presence. And you most probably understand the value of SEO as a tool for promoting your brand online. Like many other businesses, you have probably started implementing an online marketing plan, with SEO as one of the major components. Now you need to understand how SEO can affect your online reputation and vice versa.
When people do an online search using your brand as a search term, what are they likely to find? Other than your official website, will they see a long list of negative reviews for your brand in the search results? Or will they see a string of praises and positive feedback? Will they find at least one news report from a credible site commending your amazing growth in the industry? What users see when they search for you online will directly affect their decision as to whether to bother clicking through to your website or not.
Additionally, people have a tendency not only to avoid doing business with an establishment that has earned a lot of negative feedback, but also to warn their family and friends against doing business with that establishment. If you develop a poor online reputation, therefore, you are likely to lose website traffic. And when you lose web traffic, your search rankings are likely to suffer as well. This is a cycle you definitely want to avoid.
Why Manage Your Online Reputation?
Other than the fact that it can directly affect your search rankings and your bottom line, there are several good reasons why you should pro-actively manage your online reputation. For one thing, credibility is deemed of high importance by a majority of consumers. In fact, 88% of consumers claim that they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from their family and friends. And if you don’t take control of your own reputation online, then someone else will.
The Importance of Managing Your Online Reputation
Just imagine how easy it is for someone to post a negative comment about you and/or your brand on your social media pages or on an industry-specific forum. It is just as easy for someone to publish a blog post talking about a negative experience with your business. Some people would even go to the trouble of creating a hate page/site just to exact revenge for whatever wrong you may have done. Unless you protect yourself, you could easily fall prey to these negative posts.
Remember that you’re not the only one who cares about your online reputation. Your target market is also likely to be keeping an eye out for all types of feedback on businesses, including yours. If you have stock holders, then they’re also likely to be concerned about your reputation, considering they’ve invested in the business. Journalists are also interested for the simple reason that corporate meltdowns often make for excellent copy. Your employees, of course, will be tracking online feedback because your online reputation can be a strong indicator of the security (or lack thereof) of their jobs.
Online Reputation Management Tips
Now that you know why it is important to manage your online reputation and what could possibly happen if you fail to do so, you may want to get some guidance on how to go about the process. Here are a few useful tips:
- Establish a Strong and Positive Online Presence
Successful online reputation management necessarily begins with getting out there and letting people know of your existence. Set up social media profiles and claim free listings on major online directories. Being an active participant in the online world helps ensure that you are the one in control of your reputation and not someone else.
Plus, major online directories tend to occupy most of the search results for a particular business name, which means it has the potential to bump any negative feedback off the first page of SERPs. And, hey, it’s free!
- Regularly Update Your Social Media Profiles
You need to keep your social media profiles fresh by regularly posting fresh content. This way, your audience will see your business as dynamic and always on top of the trends. Keeping a steady flow of useful information is also likely to make your audience appreciate the fact that you’re always providing them with something of value.
That should encourage them to post positive reviews about you. Additionally, you should optimize your preferred content to make sure their always on top of search results. That way, there will always be more good than bad feedback about your brand.
- Regularly Check Online Feedback about You and Your Business
It is important to always be on top of everything that’s being said about you and your business. It allows you to take stock of negative feedback and respond in the best way possible. Keeping track of feedback also gives you ample time to decide whether the best course of action would be to respond directly to the feedback or not. Sometimes there are better ways to deal with negative comments than to meet them head-on.
Set up a Google Alert for your business name and any online alias you may use. You may also want to use other online reputation management tools. Google your business name on a regular basis and check out what’s being said about you on major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. That should limit the possibility of a negative comment getting past you.
- Respond to Comments Professionally
As mentioned earlier, there are instances when it’s best to directly address negative feedback and there are also instances when it’s best to just hold you peace. Read negative comments carefully and try to understand the intent behind the comment. If you are able to determine that the complaint is legit and even possibly justified, respond to it in a calm way and offer a viable remedy to the situation. This will show your audience that you may not be perfect, but you sincerely want them to have a positive experience with your business.
However, if you feel that the negative comment serves no other purpose than to get you riled up and engaging in an argument with the other party will only do more harm than good, then it would be best to let it slide and boost your reputation another way. Never respond aggressively to any negative comment and never accuse anyone of trolling (even if it’s obvious that they are). That would only make you look immature and unprofessional.
- Secure Your Online Accounts
There are just so many hackers these days and many of them hack into accounts simply because they can. This type of hackers also wouldn’t think twice about posting some nasty things in your name just for the heck of it. This is why you need to make sure all your online accounts are perfectly secure.
And while it is advisable to post all your business contact information, be sure to leave out your personal details (birth dates, addresses, home phone numbers, etc.). This is another good way of preventing others from taking control of your online reputation.
- Promote Your Brand
Who else will take the lead in establishing a good reputation for your brand if not you? Set up online promotions and contests, give away freebies and discounts on special occasions, and come up with ways to make your online audience feel important, whether they’re customers or not. Treat everyone as a potential client and promote your brand to them.
Constantly reaching out to your audience is one of the best ways to earn their loyalty. When a negative issue comes up, your loyal followers will likely wait to hear your side of the story before passing judgment. That’s why it’s important to build a loyal fan base by regularly promoting your brand.
- Educate Family, Friends, and Employees
Set a meeting with your employees and brief them on the importance of building a strong and positive online presence. Remind them to avoid posting unpleasant or unflattering content even on their personal social media accounts, as that could still reflect on your business.
Educate your family and friends as well on the importance of keeping a positive online reputation for business purposes. Ask them to refrain from making any unflattering posts about you on social sites.
The Internet has indeed made the world a smaller place, and because of that, businesses are now more vulnerable than ever to attacks on their reputation. By being proactive in managing your online reputation, you can effectively reduce this vulnerability.