Online Reputation Management for Small Businesses
The digital world can help improve your company’s brand if you know how to use its tools. Here are tips on online reputation management for small businesses.
More than 80% of people on the internet value online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Put another way, a majority of your potential and existing customers will check out what the internet is saying about you before they even consider buying from you.
Since your online reputation is so linked to your top line, investing in online reputation management (ORM) is essentially investing in the future of your small business.
Here’s a brief look at five essential ORM tips you need to develop a stellar reputation that positively influences customers.
What’s Online Reputation Management?
Reputation management online is where you use strategies to shape your firm’s public perception on the internet. The goal is not to create a false perception (as that won’t last), but to take intentional measures to positively impact how others see your business.
Effective Tips to Help Manage Your Firm’s Reputation Online
ORM can be both proactive and reactive, but the best approach entails combining the two. Here are some tangible tips you can use to manage your small business’ online reputation.
1. Take Stock of Where You Are
Whether it’s your first time dealing with ORM or not, you can’t create an effective approach without knowing the existing sentiment out there. You need to run a search on your business on all search engines and peruse the results. Don’t only stick to the first page or two – check out at least the first five search engine result pages (SERPs) related to your business.
As you go through the results, take note of any links. You will have to assess the links and classify them into positive, negative, and neutral. Once you understand the existing landscape of your online reputation, you can then create effective and relevant ORM strategies.
2. Claim Your Online Space
Every profile and account you don’t own under your firm’s name is one less tool to use in countering negative results. For any profit-minded business, that’s not being proactive.
Begin by setting up accounts and profiles for your business across major online platforms and portals. If your firm doesn’t have a website yet, now is the time to invest in one. Even if you are not thinking of using these profiles and accounts immediately, you still need to control them.
Not only does that make your firm’s name unavailable for use by others, but it also preempts those who would sign up in your business’ name to spread misinformation.
3. Don’t Ignore Negative Reviews and Comments
Ignoring negative sentiment about your business on the internet can seem like a good idea. It isn’t. You should never forget that the internet is a public square. What one person says will be heard by many others.
Negative customer feedback on social media is now prevalent, and how you respond will speak volumes about your business. Ensure you take the time to respond to and engage with customers who gripe about your firm on social media.
Another source of negative sentiment for your brand is what’s popularly known as online reputation bombs. Unlike social media criticism, these bombs are powerful because they can surface on search engine results. Online reputation bombs can include negative reviews, media coverage, or even hate sites.
Assess negative blog comments or reviews that are clearly aimed at destroying your business to determine if you should remove them. You can also hire online investigators to track down hate site creators and help you shut them down as these cause long-term harm to your reputation.
4. Shield Key Personnel
There are certain types of businesses that are more closely tied to their workers than others. Often, a lot of these businesses tend to lie in the service side of things where clients ask others who they go to, rather than where they go.
With such businesses, ORM needs to take a step further and move beyond the business’ reputation to that of essential personnel as well. The job gets tougher if these critical employees, founders, or executives are distinctive.
Ensure you open and manage online profiles and accounts for crucial staff members and other stakeholders to preempt any slander attempts. The more you control the online reputations of such staff members and stakeholders, the firmer your grasp on the narrative becomes.
5. Focus on the Blog
Whether your business is big or small, you need to run a blog as it has a significant potential impact on your search engine optimization (SEO). When search engines deem your blog authoritative and valuable, it will rank higher in SERPs.
While the content can directly help meet the needs of leads and existing customers, this higher ranking also has a reputational upside. In your customers’ eyes, the higher your ranking on SERPs, the more legitimate you are.
The kind of blog that can lift your online reputation isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. It’s one you continually keep updating content-wise and also from an SEO perspective.
A well-optimized and regularly updated blog also has the twin effect of providing content for your social media. As you directly share what’s on your blog across social media, it generates more clicks, which grows your visibility, lifting your ranking and reputation.
It’s Never Too Early to Invest in Your Online Reputation
Many small business owners fall into the trap of thinking online reputation management is for the big boys. However, the less you invest in ORM, the more you place your companys’ fate into the hands of others. Take the time to understand what ORM approaches are most aligned to your firm’s goals and will inspire trust in your business.
The Four Winds Agency is a website service and branding company passionate about empowering businesses with effective marketing and branding. Talk to us to learn more about how we can help you.