Reputation Management? Isn’t that what agents and PR professionals do for rock stars and big corporations? Traditionally yes, but today almost everyone is online in some form or fashion. Whether you have a business selling products or services, you are the product or you are simply an average Joe that engages in social sites, you need to manage your online reputation. Let’s focus on your business for now.
First step? Google your business. What results do you see? Is the information accurate? Are there good or bad reviews about your business? Are you surprised by what you see?
Here are just a few (of many) tips on how to get started on managing your business’ online reputation.
Your Own Site
Does your site appear on the first or second page of your Google search? Is your site beautifully designed, easy to use and responsive so that your customers can view it on their mobile phones? If the answer is no, hire a professional that understands search engine optimization, site usability and the importance of good calls to action and content. You own this web property. Make it work for you.
Is your business listed in vertical directories? For example, if you are a physician, you are automatically listed in a variety of healthcare directories including Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs, WebMD and several others. By all means, make sure your basic information is up to date! Do you want to lose a potential new customer because your phone number is incorrect? Generally, directory sites allow owner access to the business’ profile. In fact, these directories want you to update information so that their site users have a pleasant experience.
When you search your business, do you see results from sites like Yelp, Angie’sList, Kudzu, City Search, Google+Local, Yahoo Listings, etc? These sites are specifically designed for consumers to find and review products and services. The vertical directory sites mentioned above may also have a review component as well. Look through your reviews. You may learn about what is and isn’t working for your business. It’s free consumer research! It’s also an opportunity for you to respond to any negative comments (as well as the positive ones!).
Review sites allow the owner to claim his/her business profile and respond to reviews either publicly or privately. Here’s where it gets tricky. You likely aren’t pleased about a negative review. Take a deep breath. Never attack the reviewer. Remember, your response may be read by many other people and inciting your customer(s) may lead to more negative reviews and lost business. How you handle negative reviews will speak volumes about your integrity. Instead, thank the reviewer for their feedback. Apologize that your business did not meet their expectations and offer to rectify the situation. These are human beings, and generally all they want is to be acknowledged. There are plenty of stories of customers giving businesses a second chance following a good response to a complaint…and even posting online about their experience.
Establish your business presence on social sites that allow reviews. This includes Facebook and Twitter. You may opt to be present on other social sites as well for many other reasons. Social sites have benefits outside of collecting reviews. Google now gives your business site better search rank based on social signals such as how many tweets and retweets of your url are generated, how many Google +1s are received on a post of your business’ url and how many likes and content shares your Facebook page creates.
Facebook allows you to collect reviews from your customers. Set this up. But really, isn’t your Facebook feed a place for customers to leave reviews anyway? Be sure to monitor your Facebook page every day for both positive and negative reviews. Respond appropriately to them all. Remember, your followers have followers who have followers… So take advantage of this reach and let your good customer service shine!
Chances are you’ll see a Tweet in your Google search results. Hopefully it’s 140 characters of praise! Note that big companies now commonly use Twitter for service requests and issues. Delta instructs site visitors to tweet @DeltaAssist for general travel help. And as someone who flies Delta frequently, I can tell you the response is amazing! @ComcastCares will answer your complaints and in very short order. Yikes, I bet they’re busy! 😉 Get out there and tweet information about your business including a link to your site. Converse equally and quickly with those who complain and those who praise.
Top Search Engine “Local Listings”
Claim your business listing on Google+ Local, Bing Places and Yahoo! Local. This has instant advantages putting your business at the top of search results. It’s also extremely important for potential customers using mobile business location apps like Google Maps. You’re likely already listed if you have a business, but take time to own your listing and load it with content, images and videos that represent your unique offering. Again, monitor and respond to all reviews on these listings and keep your information up to date.
Overwhelmed? There is so much more to learn including how to improve your online reputation and how to handle a crisis. You must be committed to maintaining your online reputation as well. What to do first? Google yourself! Google search results will be most important, but search for your business (by name and search terms) across all search engines. Start with what you see on the first 2-3 results pages. Most users don’t make it past the second results page. Clean up, claim and own your online presence and reputation. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, consider hiring a professional. It’s well worth it.