Today, managing your reputation online can mean the difference between winning more business and losing potential customers. And, there is a wealth of information impacting your online reputation, from review sites and social media posts to your business blog, website and testimonials.
According to BIA/Kelsey, 97% of consumers research online before making a local purchase. What do consumers see when they search and discover your business online? Reputation management starts with this simple question, because it’s critical to understand what your business looks like online to potential customers.
Here are the basics of reputation management for local businesses: Assess, address and build.
1. Assess your reputation on search engines, review sites, social media, blogs and websites.
- Search Engines: You probably first think of review sites and the ratings that you’ve received on places like Google+ Local. But to get a typical customer view of your reputation, start by assessing what shows up for your business and reputation by usingkeywords, such as “Business Name,” “Business Name + Reviews” and “Business Name + Complaints,” on Google and Bing. Are the results positive or negative, new or old? The results you see here matter, because 70% of consumers look to search engines to find reviews, according to Econsultancy.
- Review & Listing Sites: Once you’ve assessed and tracked your reputation on search engines, locate your business pages on review sites and local listings like Google+ Local, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Citysearch and MerchantCircle. Then claim your listings so that you can manage your business content and respond to any negative reviews you find.
- Social Media Sites: Are people talking about your business on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube? Social media is an important part of your online reputation because people may discover your business there, and it’s where customers share their experiences with local businesses—especially bad experiences.
- Blogs & Websites: Consumer experiences with local businesses show up in these formats as well. Set up alerts to stay up to date on what consumers might be saying about your business elsewhere on the web.
2. Monitor and Address Your Reputation Across the Web.
Once you have assessed your online reputation, you will have a good idea of issues that need to be addressed. This is a good baseline, but it’s critical to set up a system to make sure you’re alerted about new reviews that could affect your business reputation, since they could come at any time. Here’s how:
- Use Alerts, Tools and Services: There are many tools and services to monitor your reputation online. First, set up Google and Yahoo! Alerts to send you emails any time they discover new content for the business keywords you choose. This requires that you consistently check these emails, but it’s a quick way to get started.
- Reply to Negative Reviews: Almost every business will find complaints when assessing their reputation online. It’s important to respond to negative online reviews because doing so signals to customers that you care about them and their feedback, and it tells other readers that your business puts customer service first. When responding to a negative review, be professional and courteous, address the concern, and resolve the actual customer issue offline.
- Apply What You Learn to Your Business: What you find in the reviews may provide valuable insights about your business, operations and staff. Do customers consistently complain about long wait times or rude service? Do they praise the quality of your services but wish you offered greater variety or pricing options? These comments are valuable insights that can help you improve your business.
3. Build and Promote Positive Content About Your Business.
You cannot delete negative online reviews, content or comments about your business unless you go directly to a customer with whom you’ve resolved an issue and ask that he or she revoke the commentary. (Some sites allow this, while others will not; plus, this tactic can backfire if the customer isn’t truly 100% happy with the resolution.) Instead of focusing your efforts on removing the negative, which you can’t tightly control, pour yourself into sharing and creating positive content about your business so consumers will discover it online when they search for your business.
For example, ask happy customers to leave you reviews on the top review sites that show up when you search for your business; this will help build your reputation on those sites and give a more balanced view of what it’s like to do business with you. People are more likely to post a complaint online, but for every unhappy customer, you likely have many who are satisfied. So, create a system to consistently request reviews from satisfied customers, and show your appreciation.
You should also create blog posts with customer success stories, testimonials and videos. Share this content on your website as well as on social channels. It’s also critical to create a variety of timely, search-engine optimized content using your reputation keywords so the content will show up when consumers research your online reviews.
Invest in your local business’s online reputation by reporting on its reputation, responding to reviews, and creating and promoting content—or by paying for a program that manages it all for you. Your online reputation is very important to today’s consumers, but how important is it to your business?
Tiffany Monhollon is senior content marketing manager, ReachLocal.