When you’re just starting to build out your small business, the process can seem like a linear one. You begin with a business plan, create a website, grow your audience, and make sales. It sounds like a fairly straightforward process, but what you may not be thinking about is keeping a good image online.
If a business' online reputation is left unmaintained, it can be tarnished by various factors such as bad online reviews, an upset customers on social media, or even an embarrassing photo that doesn’t paint you or your brand in the best light. These are things that can be remedied, or even prevented from the start. This is why online reputation management is incredibly important, for all businesses, especially those just starting out.
Below, we’re going to show you a set of helpful tips to keep your online reputation in check, and the necessary steps to take when your image is shown in a less than ideal light.
What is online reputation management?
The term online reputation management is a bit of a mouthful and it also sounds like a very broad term, so what does it actually entail? In a nutshell, it’s the process of influencing the public image of your brand. This is accomplished through a series of practices such as SEO, customer service, social media management, and more.
Sometimes referred to as ORM, it can affect the perception of how people perceive a brand. Whether this means pushing negative reviews further down on search engine results or finding unhappy customers on social media and addressing their issues first hand, there are many things you can do turn a bad reputation into a good one.
Of course, it’s better to work on maintaining a good online reputation than try to correct a bad one, but no one's perfect and an unfavorable situation can happen to even the best of brands.
Below, you’ll find several tips to improve and maintain your online reputation going forward.
Dominate your brand’s Google Search results
When someone searches your business on Google, the last thing you’ll want them to be met with on the first page of results is a list of negative reviews from customers that had not-so-pleasant experiences with you. Before taking any action, you should first accept the fact that you won’t be able to make everyone happy. (That’s a life lesson, too, not just a business tip.) However, if you find yourself in a situation that searching your business name on Google yields less than ideal results, there are a couple of steps you can take to mitigate the negative effects:
Do your part to make unhappy customers happy again
First and foremost, if you’re seeing negative reviews pop up on the first page of search results related to your company, go out of your way to solve the problem. Go to the page that’s housing the negative review and see if you can reply to the unhappy customer directly and try to solve whatever they’ve taken issue with. This is your first weapon, and honestly, something you should be doing anyway. Being proactive about unhappy customers shows them you’re able and willing to hear their feedback and want to help make them happy. After all, your customers are what make your business successful. Don’t alienate them by ignoring them.
If you’re able to solve an unhappy customer’s issue after seeing a negative review, it’s completely reasonable to ask if they would either remove the review or update it to reflect that the issue was resolved. Even if the unwanted search result still appears, it’ll be better to find an updated review where the situation was taken care of.. For the most part, a happy customer won’t have an issue with you asking them to update or remove a bad review.
Push positive reviews
Positive reviews are something to be proud of, so show them off! By sharing links to positive reviews on your social networks, your website, blog posts, or testimonial section of your website, you can increase the chances of it being indexed higher within search results. This, in turn, can help push negative reviews further down in favor of the positive ones you’re sharing.
If you really want to dominate the results when someone searches your business on Google, provide enough indexable content to do so! By starting a blog for your brand, your posts will provide another link for Google to add to its search results.
Google loves fresh content, and if it sees you’re consistently updating your website with new blog posts. By updating your site often with new blog posts, Google will crawl your site more often, and give you more opportunities to appear in search results for queries related to your business. The more pages you have, the more chances you'll get to rank Your blog posts not only provide another way for prospective customers to find you, but they can also serve as a shield for potentially negative reviews and other less than ideal content to bubble up in results.
Get “official” on social media if you haven’t already
Want even more pages to populate when your brand is searched on Google? Be sure that you’ve added your website to all of your social network accounts! This may seem like a simple task (and it is) but if you’ve made your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social platform accounts “official” by adding your URL to your profiles, search engines will index them. Little tricks like this can make a big impact on what’s actually shown in search results.
Even if you’re not planning to use social media for your own marketing purposes, it’s important that you own your accounts. Why? Well, say a disgruntled customer noticed that there was no official Twitter or Instagram account for your brand, they might take it upon themselves to create that profile for their own nefarious purposes. Not only could this be damaging to your reputation, but it will also mean that you lost out on owning your own name on these channels. And let’s face it @yourbrandname looks a lot more official than something like @yourbrandname1235 or @yourbrandnameOFFICIAL. So claim your social media handles while you can.