In today’s digital age, your online reputation is everything. Literally, everyone who considers doing business with you, whether it’s B2B or B2C, will first do their research to find out who you are and what the internet has to say about you. What they discover from this will form their opinion of you and your business, and tip the scales in one direction or the other.
Online business reputation management, also known as digital reputation management, or internet reputation management, is the process of taking control over the information people can see about you online. It includes improving your own website and communication channels, as well as taking actions towards cleaning up your name on third-party platforms, websites, and review sources. The ultimate goal is to make your brand trustworthy and show customers that doing business with you will be a pleasant experience.
People nowadays give credit to reviews and fellow customers’ opinions way more than they trust brands and advertising. Survey respondents claim that a business’s internet reputation is the №1 way to win them over. With more than 93% of customers and 92% of B2B buyers researching companies online before the first contact, having an online reputation management strategy will let you control how they see you.
What’s more, the context in which your brand is mentioned can influence your search engine performance. As of 2021, Google’s EAT criteria are already a ranking factor and will affect not only your pages’ positions in organic search results but your overall domain authority. Whereas a bad reputation will not only compromise your SEO and digital marketing efforts, it will also drive customers away, and cost you precious revenue.
In this article, we’ll be sharing the 6 golden rules of online business reputation management so that you can have a spotless digital presence and effective crisis solutions. Read on and take notes!
1. Make Your Website Trustworthy and Authoritative
When people are doing pre-purchase research and considering whether they can trust you with their money or not, they will first visit your website. That’s where your online business reputation management efforts will most likely start. Even if a positive or negative review from a third-party platform sparked the customer’s interest, your website will still play a part in forming their opinion about you.
According to recent research by TrustPilot, 77% of customers say they don’t trust brands that have outdated websites, and 88.4% state the same about companies whose websites don’t look secure.
Making your website trustworthy is a complex task, but there are a few things you can focus on:
- Design. An old-fashioned-looking site can drive customers away.
- Functionality. Your pages should be informative and easy to navigate.
- Mobile-Friendliness. The site should look good on screens of all shapes and sizes.
- Transparency. There should be sufficient information about your company.
- Expertise. The information you publish should be reliable and written by professionals.
- Credibility. It should be clear who the people behind the website are.
- Reviews. Feedback from customers shows that you can be trusted.
Most of the above will not only make your website more welcoming and trustworthy to clients but, as mentioned, it can improve your performance in SERPs. To comply with Google’s regulations, your website should be trustworthy, authoritative, and show expertise in the niche you are operating in.
You can read more about how to improve your page quality and EAT stats in our article on the topic:
2. Take a Hold of Search Engine Results
A substantial part of your digital reputation is about what people find on the first page of search engine results. Creating an effective SEO strategy for your business will allow you to take control of your brand-related keywords and what people see when they are searching for your company name online.
However, the websites and profiles you own are not the only place discussions about you will take place.
Negative feedback or comments on third-party platforms can end up on the first page in Google search and threaten your reputation. In most cases, you’ll be able to clear up misunderstandings. But sometimes you’ll come across bad reviews and posts by people that can’t be reasoned with. It can be hate promoted by competitors, trolls trashing you, or something else completely.
Of course, you should still try to fix the problem in a civilized way, but if this doesn’t work, you don’t want these reviews remaining on the first page of search results. Even if people see through the injurious intentions, this can still affect how they feel and cast a shadow over your reputation.
The most efficient tactic to take control over the situation in such cases is to try to outperform harmful content in SEO and push it down to a less visible position in SERPs.
We all know the cliche:
“The best place to hide a body is on the second page of Google search results.”
Find out which keywords the negative pages are ranking for and create positive brand content optimized to outrank them. It can be blog posts, product page descriptions, and so on.
Unfortunately, the results won’t come overnight since building SEO success for a page takes time. But to accelerate the process, you can consider promoting your new posts on platforms where you have loyal supporters and encouraging them to re-share and comment.
3. Own Your Mistakes
The foundation of online business reputation management is, of course, providing top-notch services. If your product is of bad quality, your marketing is sloppy, and your customer service is rude, no miracle can help you build a spotless online reputation. However, even businesses that are on top of every aspect of their game have bad days.
Owning up to your mistakes and working towards fixing the problems is a vital part of maintaining a positive digital reputation. It shows customers that you care and are willing to improve. Also, if you fix what made them unhappy, people can even take back their negative statements about you and improve the rating they gave you.
Ignoring bad reviews and negative information, and not replying with an official statement, can make a minor mistake turn into a PR disaster and sometimes ruin your reputation beyond repair.
By admitting you’ve made a mistake, shows that you know how to be responsible and that you care about your customers.
4. Engage With Your Customers
Communication with your customers shouldn’t be a one-way street. If you maintain social media and other platform profiles only for brand awareness or SEO, you risk becoming detached from your customers. Simply sharing information and forgetting about it will not pave the way to your clients’ hearts, but what’s more, it can affect your online business reputation management.
Consider employing a more personal approach and trying to engage your followers in conversation, and inspire them to share their experiences with your brand. Start with researching where your target audience hangs out and establish an active presence there.
However, as chatty as people nowadays are online, it’s not necessarily easy to instigate and maintain a conversation. By upping your B2B digital communication skills and setting up an engagement strategy, you will be able to work on your image while connecting with your customers.
5. Handle Reviews with Care
While how you build and represent your brand is indeed important, reviews and other forms of user-generated content are the building blocks of your online reputation.
Research shows that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from someone they know. What’s more, 94% of people are more likely to do business with a brand that has positive reviews, and 92% will reconsider their decision if the brand has too many negative reviews.
Reviews are the buyer’s compass when doing business online and should be handled with care. Otherwise, they might destroy the reputation you’ve been building and ruin your PR efforts.
Encourage Positive Comments and Reviews
Customers may enjoy your services greatly but if you don’t invite them to leave a review, no one else will know about their experience.
And the fact is that to convince newcomers you are worthy of doing business with, you need to have more than just a few reviews. Research shows that 27.55% of customers want to read between 11 and 50 reviews to be able to trust a product.
You can encourage your clients to share their positive experiences with your brand by:
- Setting up a review page on your website.
- Sending emails inviting them to comment on their purchase.
- Sending reminder emails.
- Offering incentives like discounts and bonuses.
- Working with independent review platforms.
- Inviting customers to leave social media reviews.
People are often quick to leave negative feedback when they are not pleased with a product but may forget to leave a positive one if not specially invited to.
By encouraging them, you can generate enough reviews to make your business trustworthy and build up your reputation.
Be Quick to Respond
Regardless of whether the reviews or comments are good or bad, you should try to leave a timely response. When customers have gone out of their way to say something nice about you, it’s only polite to thank them. And if their experience was not pleasant, you should swiftly try to fix the issue and make amends before the problem escalates.
53% of customers say they expect brands to respond to their reviews within a week, especially when they’ve had a negative experience, 63% remain disappointed and never receive an answer.
Never Delete Reviews and Comments
Deleting negative reviews and comments is rarely the answer when trying to maintain a positive online reputation:
- It Doesn’t Solve the Problem. By removing the review, you’ll accomplish nothing but compromising your relationship with the customer.
- You Risk Losing Control. Even if you delete the review, the customer will still be unhappy – maybe even more now – and will find other places to speak their mind and share their frustration. This way you would not only have made them angrier but would have lost control over the situation.
- Shows You Can’t Handle Critique. As mentioned, owning up to your mistakes is important. It gives you a chance to reclaim the high ground and shows maturity.
- Leaves a Bad Taste. Even if you solve the situation privately, the client and everyone else who’s already seen the bad review knows something was not quite right and their trust in you will diminish.
What’s more, showcasing only positive reviews may seem unrealistic to users and make them suspicious of your honesty. 67% of B2B buyers prefer to see a mixture of good and bad reviews when researching a company. 72% say that negative reviews help them form an opinion more easily and provide depth to their decision, and 39.5% state that they even provide more credibility to the product.
In a way, bad reviews are good for business. However, what’s important for your digital reputation management is how you handle the situation.
Negative reviews and comments should always be addressed in a civilized manner. Try to follow up on feedback from your customers, find solutions for the problems, and use that knowledge to make improvements. You can even consider sharing a thank you post and expressing your gratitude to your customers when you make changes based on their suggestions.
This shows that you care about your customer’s experience, their opinions, and are ready to listen and improve.
6. Have a Crisis Plan Ready to Fire
There is no way to know when there will be a crisis or what kind of problem it will revolve around, but there are ways you can plan ahead and help stay on top of reputation hazards:
- Assemble a Reputation Managing Team. Having a group of employees who regularly track your reputation online enables you to spot and prevent unpleasant situations from spiraling out of control.
- Select a Crisis Team Leader. Some people are better than others under pressure, and when there is an ongoing crisis, people need to know who is in charge. When the chain of command is clear, it’s easier to take swift actions and find solutions.
- Work on Your Crisis Communication. Using a calm, consistent, and respectful tone of voice can keep a situation from escalating and should be the foundation of your crisis plan.
- Monitor All Communication Channels. Even when the crisis happens on one platform, all other communication channels should be monitored. Bad news can spread like wildfire across the digital networks and if you are there on time to handle them with grace, you can prevent the crisis from spreading.
- Draft Different Scenarios. Knowing your industry, your clients, and your history of complaints, you can make up a list of potential situations and consider how to react as they unfold. Being prepared allows you to keep a clear mind and act in confidence.
Even if a completely unexpected crisis hits, having a competent team ready to react will minimize the damage. Having a plan allows you to focus on finding a solution, rather than panicking and making mistakes.
Bonus Tip: Invest in a Reputation Management Tool
Online reputation management can successfully be done manually, especially for small businesses and startups that don’t have a global digital presence yet.
However, when your company grows so does its reputation and the number of people talking about it. Keeping track of every communication channel can become overwhelming, and a bad comment or review can slip between the cracks and cause unexpected trouble.
One way to stay on top of your expanding digital reputation is to invest in a reputation management tool.
Modern software solutions allow you to track all mentions of your brand, monitor brand keywords, track backlinks, and so on. Leveraging their features can help you organize your work better, prioritize tasks and make sure you never overlook a crisis in the brewing.
Managing your digital reputation gives you the chance to take control over what people learn about you when they research your company.
While you can’t edit what people say about you, or change how they feel, you can encourage positive feedback and work to fix issues when your customers are unhappy. This will improve and consolidate your online reputation. It will also make you seem more trustworthy to customers as well as improve revenue and brand experience.