Before I start off with what online reputation management is, let me present a scenario for you to consider:
You’re traveling to a new city, let’s say Seattle. You’re not familiar with the place, but you want to go someplace nice for a hearty lunch. What’s the first thing you do? You’ll most likely whip your phone out, go to Google, and search for ‘restaurants in Seattle’, or ‘restaurants near me’, and the internet will provide you with a solution that looks like this:
You now have a list of options to choose from. How do you decide which restaurant to choose? Odds are, you will probably go with the one considered to be the best by most people, i.e., the one with the highest star rating and most number of positive reviews. Am I wrong?
The above example highlights what customers today base their purchase decisions on. Online ratings and reviews are more important now than ever. Most times, reviews are unbiased opinions. Hence a majority of people are using it as a means to take informed decisions about a business.
In fact, statistics show that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation, and 91% of people regularly or occasionally check online reviews. This clearly outlines the importance of good ratings and positive business reviews.
Other than influencing potential customers’ purchase decisions, online reviews can also help your business in other ways:
- When it comes to organic search results, the quality and quantity of your business reviews are two factors that help with ranking higher.
- They also reveal your customers’ problems with your business and help you figure out areas for improvement.
But what does this have to do with online reputation? Well, essentially, your business’s ratings and online reviews are what constitutes its online reputation. It dictates how your business is being perceived online and helps users decide whether or not to choose it over others.
Every touchpoint that a customer has with your business online is a contributor to its online reputation. This could be through Google reviews, social media sites, online directory listings, and even your own website. If potential customers come across low ratings or negative reviews, they’re not going to trust the quality of your business. This brings us to the most important question:
What Is Online Reputation Management?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the set of techniques and strategies that you put in place for your business, in order to promote its online presence in a positive light. ORM also involves monitoring and resolving negative reviews and feedback in the best manner possible, and making sure that false or malicious ones are dealt with as soon as possible.
This process usually involves doing a deep audit of your business’ online reputation and putting in place the necessary measures to help you control the customer sentiment towards your brand as much as possible. You can start off your audit by analyzing your business’s reviews and ratings across major search engines, social media channels, and online directories.
Then, with the data in hand, you can create a strategy to improve and maintain your online reputation. But before you start to structure your ORM strategy, you need to be clear on two things:
- Why your business needs ORM, heading into 2019?
- What you can do to improve your online reputation?
Why Do Businesses Need ORM in 2019?
Besides the fact that ORM is an ongoing and ever-evolving process, here’s why businesses will need it in 2019:
#1 Search has become mobile-friendly
Consider these statistics:
- Mobile is the dominant platform for searches, as 48% of buyers use smartphones to do searches. (Source)
- 69% of consumers worldwide, between the ages of 18 and 39, use mobile devices to research products before they buy. (Source)
- 78% of mobile searches for local businesses result in a purchase. That’s higher than any other kind of device. (Source)
This tells us — consumers are using smartphones to discover/research businesses and products, and most of them are doing so with the intent to purchase. But why should this factor into your business’s need for ORM?
Well, this shift toward an increasingly mobile-first world means that it has never been easier for customers to review your business, just as it has never been easier for potential customers to view them. For example, take a look at how reviews and ratings are shown prominently in mobile searches:
This being the case, it is highly imperative that you put in place every measure possible to manage your online reputation.
#2 ORM directly relates to an increase in sales/revenue
As mentioned earlier, people tend to turn to the internet for solutions and products. With the rise in the number of smartphones and smart devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, users have instant access to your business information and reviews.
This being the case, users also expect businesses to be just as active in responding to their reviews and queries. In fact, a recent survey shows that 52% of people expect your brand to respond to their reviews.
If you do not have a good ORM strategy in place, it is highly possible that you might miss out on the chance to interact with these customers and convert them into repeat customers.
#3 Increases brand credibility/image
We’ve already established that ratings and reviews are key factors when it comes to building trust amongst existing and potential customers. However, consumer behavior has shown us that even a single negative review can deter a potential customer from turning to your business.
ORM can help resolve the complaints of unsatisfied customers in the quickest way possible and aid in effective damage control. This, in turn, will uplift your brand image, since potential customers will know that you care about their experience with your business.
#4 Helps you get better recruits
ORM helps you attract better talent, and the logic behind this is simple. Job seekers naturally look out for companies that have a good reputation. In a competitive landscape, this gives you the advantage of having more options when it comes to hiring employees, thus allowing you to choose the better fit for your business.
These are the four main reasons why businesses will most certainly need an effective ORM strategy in place for 2019. Having covered that, it’s time to take a look at what you can do to improve your business’s online reputation.
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Here are a few pointers to get you started on the right path:
1. Ensure that your business can be easily found online
Before improving your business’s online reputation, you need to make sure that your business can be found anywhere your customers might search for it. This entails getting it listed on all the major review and social media sites such as Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, etc. You can even automate this process by using an online listings management tool. Remember, people cannot leave your business glowing reviews if they can’t find it online.
2. Work on your business’s local SEO
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are still the most popular way for customers to discover businesses (source). This means that you also need to work on your business’ local SEO in order to rank better and be found by users on organic local search results. You can use this checklist to make sure you cover all the bases.
3. Respond to your reviews
Responding to the reviews that you get online shows people that you are invested in their experience and interaction with your business. Furthermore, responding to positive reviews, even if it’s just a ‘thank you’, can help develop a rapport with your customers, which can easily translate into a mutually beneficial relationship.
On the other hand, responding to negative reviews is just as important, as it can help diffuse any dissatisfaction from the customer’s viewpoint, and help convince them to give your business another try.
Besides these, you can also improve your brand reputation by setting up rewards and loyalty programs for your customers and actively engaging with them on social media. Above all, make sure that you prioritize customer experience, as it is one of the most influential factors when it comes to your business’ reputation, be it online or otherwise.
So there you have it. Managing your business’s online reputation can sometimes be a tough and time-consuming task, but it is absolutely essential nonetheless. I hope this article helped you better understand why ORM is important, and how you can get started on yours.
Author bio: Antony Melwin is a marketing writer at Synup. When he’s not writing, he’s caught up in his own world that revolves around travel, fashion, poetry, and photography. Having studied Textile Design, he loves to analyze every bit of fabric that he can get his hands on. Currently, however, he’s focused on traveling to every location on his bucket list. You can follow his travels at his Instagram @melwinish.