How Your Online Reputation is Established
Your reputation and person-to-person marketing have evolved from local, face-to-face conversations into international broadcasts with just a click or two of the mouse. These days consumers rely heavily on internet ratings and posts when making buying decisions and they are more than willing to leave negative reviews and comments that could hurt your business.
You can waste lots of money on marketing messages and advertising , but internet-savvy shoppers take the word of customer reviews way more readily than anything you might put out there on the web.
Being ready to handle negative feedback before it turns away future customers is critical when your consumers buyers rely so heavily on reviews, ratings, and comments.
You don’t need to be a pro to maintain a positive reputation. You must, however, know how to create a strong baseline for your online presene, and how to achieve a five-star reputation by gathering, monitoring, and promoting your customer reviews.
Tips for Local and Small Businesses to Improve Their Online Reputation
1. Great Products & Phenomenal Customer Service
Customer reviews usually focus on two things: Product Quality/Performance and Customer Service. Assuming that you have a fantastic product, that leaves customer service as the thing you should be constantly improving.
It is critical for you to get constant feedback from both your customers and your employees who interface with customer. Use this feedback actively to change and improve where needed. Let customers see you are a business owner who wants to earn their turst. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Hire and Retain Employees Who Really Care About Your Business and The Customers!!!!
2. Maintain a Simple to Navigate, Mobile Optimized Website
91% of Americans will use their mobile device find info on local businesses. Having a responsive website that looks great on any device is mandatory.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, Google won’t rank it on search results which means your business might as well not exist. Check the mobile-friendliness of your website here: Google Mobile Friendliness Test
If your website loads slowy, is difficult to navigate, or hard to read people will not stay their long enough to get the info they are searching for. Why would they? There are hundreds of other websites just a click away that offer similar services or products.
How easy it is for consumers to find and interface with your website is crucial for good search engine rankings. Build your website with deep thought to the customer experience and you’ll notice an increase in not only new customers but also loyalty and retention among existing ones.
3. Claim, Manage and Promote Search Engine Profiles and Reviews
Customers use search engines to find new products and companies and they trust the ratings and reviews displayed in search results.
Claim and optimize your business profiles on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business. This not only helps you rank higher in their respective search results, but also gives search engines users high-profile locations to leave reviews for your business that show up in search results. This is also how your business appears on maps and local listings that are highlighted on search results pages.
4. Manage Online Citations and Business Listings
Online business listings make your business visible to both search engines like Google and to customers searching online for your address and phone number.
Search engines are pull your information from these online directories to verify that you are a legitimate business and to provide up to date location and contact information to consumers.
Make sure your business is listed on numerous trusted online directories so and that your business name, address, and phone number (aka NAP) are IDENTICAL on every listing.
There are hundreds of these directories, and you can do this manually or you can automate the process with low cost services available readily online.
5. Claim and Optimize Social Media and Review Site Profiles
Building a healthy social media presence is a powerful and effective marketing tactic. Even if you don’t have the time or know how, participation is still needed to protect your digital reputation.
Claim your business and personal names on social media sites. Use a photo or your logo and write a brief one or two sentence description. Register your business on the major sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Local businesses should also consider county, city, and even neighborhood level networks like chambers of commerce and homeowner association websites connect your business with consumers in your area.
Claim your profiles on high traffic sites like Google My Business, Facebook, and Angie’s List. Provide your locations, photos, business hours, description of your services, payment options and categories to give potential customers all the information they need while building citations for your business.
6. Monitor the Personal Online Reputation of ALL People Associated with Your Business
Once a disparaging photo or comment is made online it it stays there and can have a damaging affect on your business.
Have a written and signed social media and online policy for all employees.
Clearly define do’s and don’ts and the consequences of not adhering to policy/guidelines. Include instructions on the use of disclaimers and copyrighted materials as well as the how important it is to maintain the privacy of others and not to disclose confidential information.
7. Actively Solicit Feedback and Promote Your Best Reviews
You need to know what customers think about your business before they post reviews online. Proactively seek feedback and when you are informed that a customer has had a bad experience you can resolve issues quickly and and you can also encourage happy customers to post positive reviews on the ranking/social sites that matter to you most.
You can use comment cards, email, or even chatbots on your website to gather feedback. Let your customers know that you want their feedback and gives them an incredibly easy way to provide it. With a reputation management system like the one offered by 9th Street WiFi, you can have a virtually hands-free system that contacts your customers so you know what they are thinking.
8. Prepare for Handling Negative Feedback and Reviews
Deserved or not, negative comments or online reviews that show up online should be addressed immediately.
If bad reviews accurately highlight problems with your business, respond both publicly on the review and privately with the customer. Most importantly, make it right. Owner responses allow you not only to lessen the impact of that review but also provide the opportunity to correct an issue or satisfy a dissatisfied customer. Show future customers that you care about them and value their feedback as a way to improve your business.
9. Blog and Publish Online Content to Highlight Positives About Your Business
Blogging reflects your brand standard, establishes a positive online reputation, and supports your credibility as a respected business by showcasing your expertise to your community and your industry.
Publishing relevant articles and useful information on microsites and social sharing sites not only helps connect customers to your business but also shows proactive involvement in your industry and your community.
10. Consistently Monitor Your Reviews and Online Presence
Research and consistently monitor your own online reputation to ensure that you know what is being said about your business online before the next potential customer sees it. Online review monitoring allows you to be part of the conversations that influence consumer decisions.
Consider using an affordable professional Reputation Management tool like Reputation Loop by 9th Street Wifi to simplify and automate these processes.
Jason Roberts is the owner of 9th Street Media (helping small LOCAL businesses grow by maximizing their digital marketing opportunities and automating the digital marketing process) who loves online marketing, movies, and live music.